Health and nutrition for every last child

We are committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of their origin, gender or needs, has access to primary health care. Our goal is that by 2030, no child under the age of five should die from preventable causes.

Every five seconds a child dies somewhere in the world. They die from preventable causes such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, premature births, complications during pregnancy or childbirth. In many countries of the world there is neither clean water nor sufficient food nor functioning health systems.

For this reason, Save the Children is committed at national and international level to implementing political and financial measures to improve health systems in developing countries. We work with governments and partners to develop poverty reduction strategies and improve basic health services such as mother-child care, vaccination programmes and prenatal care. In addition, we are committed to improving nutrition for children to save lives and enable them to develop healthily.

122 Mio.

children we have helped to survive in the last ten years.

Our Vision

By 2030 no child under the age of five dies of preventable causes.

Help for the youngest

We promote and support the nutrition of infants in order to guarantee their survival and enable healthy physical and cognitive development.

Malnutrition is the cause of almost half of all child deaths. Malnourished children are more susceptible to disease and are usually less educated and in poorer health. Hunger weakens children and they cannot fight diseases such as diarrhoea or pneumonia. For those who survive, malnutrition also has a major impact in the first years of life. Many suffer from physical and mental impairments throughout their lives.

Our nutrition programmes for mothers, infants and newborns focus on the “first 1000 days” – the time between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. They aim to ensure adequate food and nutritional intake for pregnant women and infants, effective feeding and care practices for infants and young children, and protection against infectious diseases. This way, we start where a big difference can be made for children.

5.3 Mio.

children died of malnutrition in 2018.

Malnutrition - problems, consequences and information:

To develop healthily, every person must eat the right amount of food and vital nutrients. This includes, for example, vegetables and fruits that contain vitamins and minerals, but also foods such as nuts, beans or oils that provide the body with fats or proteins. An unbalanced diet can make people more susceptible to diseases, hinder body growth, limit performance at school and work, and also lead to problems during pregnancy. Especially in the first years of life, malnutrition can have a fatal effect on children. Even if they survive, they often suffer physical and mental consequences throughout their lives. There is enough food in the world. Save the Children is committed to ensuring that no child dies because they do not have enough or not the right food. Here we answer some questions about hunger and malnutrition.

Malnutrition occurs in many forms:

Malnutrition means that a person consumes less energy over a longer period than they need to maintain their own body weight and develop healthily. Children in developing countries suffer from this form of malnutrition. The consequences can be growth disorders (stunting): children are too small for their age and suffer from delayed mental development, which can have a negative impact on school performance, for example. Those affected also frequently suffer from developmental delays (wasting), which manifests itself in emaciation and loss of strength. Often, underweight is accompanied by both stunting, wasting, or both.

Micronutrient deficiency means that a person does not consume enough nutrients such as minerals or vitamins. The undersupply of nutrients has as well a negative effect on the mental and physical development of children and adolescents. However, since the deficiency is often not directly visible, it is often also referred to as "hidden hunger". Often, children in poor families who do not have access to a balanced diet are particularly affected. However micronutrient deficiencies are widespread worldwide. Moreover, the deficiency does not necessarily have to be accompanied by malnutrition. People suffering from overeating can also be affected by micronutrient deficiencies.

Overeating means that a person consumes more energy than they need over a longer period of time. The consequences: Overweight and, in particularly bad cases, obesity. Incorrectly, overweight is still often equated with prosperity. Yet more and more poor people around the world are affected by it because they are more often dependent on cheap calories, which are often high in fat and sugar.

The term malnutrition is often mistakenly equated with hunger. When a person is starving, he receives less food than he actually needs. If the lack of food exists for a limited period, for example during droughts or wars, we speak of acute hunger. If people do not have access to enough food over a long period of time, we speak of chronic hunger.

Children suffer particularly badly from the consequences of malnutrition, as it permanently impairs their mental and physical development. Especially in the first 5 years of their lives, but also in their adolescence, it is important for their development to consume the right nutrients. Adults who suffered from malnutrition and growth disorders as children often have learning difficulties, earn 20 percent less in their later careers than non-affected adults, and are 30 percent more likely to experience poverty. Overall, 52 million children under the age of 5 suffer from developmental delays and 155 million from growth delays worldwide. In addition, 45 percent of all deaths of children under 5 are due to malnutrition.

The causes of malnutrition are multiple, complex and often closely intertwined. These include:

Inequalities and exclusion foster malnutrition. Around the world, malnutrition primarily affects people who are disadvantaged for a variety of reasons - for example, because of their financial situation, where they live or where they come from. Where a child lives determines whether local services, educational facilities or food are available to him or her. In addition, the place of residence determines cultural and social practices, income - and ultimately the nutritional situation. Malnutrition, for example, particularly affects children growing up in rural areas or in urban slums.

Poverty affects almost all aspects of life, such as access to education or health services, and is one of the main drivers of malnutrition. A family's financial situation almost always has an important impact on a child's nutrition. Low-income families often rely on low-cost, lower-quality, and less nutritious food. Children from low-income families are much more likely to suffer from growth and developmental problems. A large proportion of all children under age 5 who die from malnutrition come from low- and middle-income countries. And even within higher-income countries, children from poorer households are at much greater risk of dying from malnutrition than children from wealthier families.

Conflict is a significant driver of malnutrition. They are partly responsible for the fact that the number of hungry people has been on the rise again for several years. In 2018 alone, more than 250 million people worldwide suffered from acute hunger. In Yemen, approximately 85,000 children died from extreme hunger between April 2015 and October 2018 - far more than from bullets or bombs. More than three-quarters of the more than 150 million children who are not age-appropriate live in conflict zones. Conflict often leads to a breakdown in supply structures: crop failures accumulate, food cannot be delivered and becomes increasingly expensive. At the same time, humanitarian aid does not reach its target or meet people's needs.

The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly noticeable in the form of extreme weather events which have a rising impact on malnutrition. Increasingly frequent disasters often cause prolonged food instability. For example, while the Horn of Africa was affected by drought every 8 to 10 years in the past, the region now suffers from extreme and prolonged droughts much more frequently. Mozambique was hit by two cyclones in just six weeks in the first half of 2019. The destruction of local infrastructure, crop failures, water shortages and dying livestock that often accompany disasters are just some of the consequences that lead to acute and chronic hunger.

Our community approach in our health projects

In our health programmes we try to involve whole communities in the project work. In this way, children can be treated at home even in remote areas, which can often prove to be a life-saving factor.

Basic medical care should be a fundamental right for all people. Whether they are poor or rich, living in the countryside or in the city. Together with health care institutions, governments, non-governmental organisations, those responsible in towns and villages and children, we work to provide affordable and good medical care for all people. To improve the quality of existing health services, we also support the health authorities by training medical staff, providing equipment and transport and setting up health stations.

Preventable diseases - often fatal diseases for disadvantaged children

In the first years of life, children are particularly vulnerable and need special care. Save the Children has set itself the goal that no child under the age of five should suffer from preventable but often fatal diseases for the youngest.

Millions of children around the world die of preventable diseases. Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria account for 28% of all deaths among children under five, despite the established, cost-effective measures to prevent and treat these and other infectious diseases. Save the Children’s health programs focus on empowering health workers and others to use these proven interventions to reach children who need them. In our efforts, we focus on the three major child killers: pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

It is primarily the most disadvantaged children who face the most serious threats. They are rarely vaccinated and are most likely to face increased background risks associated with poverty, malnutrition and air pollution. By supporting vaccination campaigns for the most vulnerable groups, we know that we can save more children’s lives from pneumonia. In 2018, we supported more than 530,000 vaccinations against pneumonia in at least 17 countries.

Icon Medikament

Pneumonia In 2018, we supported more than 530,000 vaccinations against pneumonia in at least 17 countries.

Projects in health and nutrition

We help when children need us most

We do everything we can to ensure that the world's most disadvantaged children grow up healthy, learn and are protected. Every donation counts and is used where help is needed most urgently.

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