Action Against Hunger’s nutrition programs treat and prevent acute malnutrition in those most vulnerable, including young children and women who are pregnant or nursing. The programs are launched most often during times of crisis: when an earthquake devastates a city, when civil war tears a country apart, when drought leads to famine, when families flee violence only to confront hunger. The context for our programs can be as varied as the crises: from rural mountain villages, to ethnically divided cities, to the confines of overcrowded relocation camps for internally displaced persons.
Based on the unique demands of each situation, its context, and the local culture, Action Against Hunger designs a nutrition program that will best meet the needs of the community. The core components of this programme include an evaluation of the community’s nutritional needs, the treatment and prevention of malnutrition, and technical training for local and national staff in charge of nutrition and public health. The approach is guided by a strategy of flexible response to conditions that can rapidly change. As soon as conditions allow, we work to integrate the programs into existing public health structures to ensure the future nutritional well-being of the community.
Evaluation of nutritional needs
Understanding the root causes of a specific outbreak of malnutrition is essential to the design and implementation of an effective program. Action Against Hunger draws on the full range of its technical expertise — in nutrition, food security, water and sanitation, and health — to conduct an analysis of the situation. In addition to baseline data on core nutritional indicators, the assessment includes information on the culture, its infrastructure, and the local geography. The resulting evaluation helps to determine the specific activities required for an effective response to the crisis.
Treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition
Drawing on more than 30 years of experience, Action Against Hunger has developed an effective method to treat acute malnutrition that includes field-tested protocols and nutritional products backed by an international scientific advisory board. Therapeutic Feeding Centres provide round-the clock care for those most severely affected by acute malnutrition — infants, young children, pregnant and nursing women. Without proper treatment, these women and children would face imminent death. With treatment, the vast majority return to their families after 30 days.
To prevent a relapse in those recently discharged from Therapeutic Feeding Centres, and to assist those who suffer from acute malnutrition but require less intensive care, Outpatient Treatment Programmes provide treatment on a weekly basis. Our staff carefully monitor the nutritional health of the children, and dispense therapeutically formulated food that can be consumed without special preparation and easily transported to remote locations. Often mobile, these centres also help those who cannot reach the network of Therapeutic Feeding Centres. In addition to the medical and nutritional care, Action Against Hunger organises activities to encourage social interaction, strengthen family cohesion and educate caregivers on hygiene and nutrition.
Technical training and support for local staff
Even at the outbreak of a crisis, when all efforts are focused on providing treatment and saving lives, we’re already helping to strengthen and rebuild the health infrastructure. We do this from the outset by fielding a team that overwhelmingly consists of national staff members. As soon as the situation stabilises, we begin to adapt our programmes so that they can be integrated into a country’s existing public health system. When the crisis subsides and Action Against Hunger can depart, the national staff remain to continue working on behalf of their community’s nutritional health.