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“Starved for Attention”: MSF Launches Global Campaign on Childhood Malnutrition

NEW YORK, 3 June 2010 – The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the VII Photo agency today launched “Starved for Attention,” a global multimedia campaign presenting a new perspective of childhood malnutrition, a preventable and treatable condition that needlessly claims the lives of millions of children each year.

A mini-documentary series, released over a seven-week period beginning today at www.starvedforattention.org highlights how increased childhood sickness and early death can be prevented with effective nutritional interventions. Visitors to the website can add their names to a global petition drive titled “Overcoming Childhood Malnutrition: The Time to Act is Now.”

The Starved for Attention campaign seeks to build a critical mass of awareness that will translate into reforms of humanitarian food assistance and nutrition programs for malnourished children, and the mobilization of resources needed to scale up programs to prevent and treat malnutrition.

Currently, international food donors mostly provide cereal-based fortified flours. While these foods can relieve hunger, they do not meet the nutritional requirements of young, growing children. For example, the US, the world’s largest food aid donor, is sending sub-standard foods that do not meet basic nutrition requirements for infants and young children.  These foods would not be provided to children in the US. Starved for Attention exposes this double standard. 

Tested strategies to address malnutrition are effective and are showing promising results in many countries. Some, including Mexico, Thailand, and Brazil, have reduced early childhood malnutrition through direct nutrition programs that ensure infants and young children from even the poorest families have access to quality foods, such as milk and eggs. At the same time there is growing political will in Asian and African countries to replicate successful programs. The Starved for Attention petition calls for support to these efforts.

“Our medical teams working in more than 30 countries with high levels of malnutrition, in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, have demonstrated that with early intervention with quality, balanced foods, countless children can be spared the consequences of malnutrition,” said Dr. Christophe Fournier, president of MSF’s International Council  “We know what children need.  It’s simply a matter of ensuring they get it.” In 2009, MSF treated 250,000 malnourished children in 34 countries.

At any given time, an estimated 195 million children are affected by malnutrition worldwide.  It contributes to at least one-third of the eight million annual deaths of children under five years of age. These deaths are preventable if the nutritional requirements of young children are met. Starved for Attention underscores the possible, focusing on successful strategies implemented daily to address malnutrition, and how they can, and must, be expanded.

Page updated: 3 June 2010
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