Saving Children’s Lives: Reducing Malnutrition in the Developing World

Part of our series Saving Children’s Lives: A Global Public Health Toolkit for Donors

One in four children around the world is malnourished, with inadequate nutrition contributing to over a third of deaths in children under five. There’s little doubt that giving malnourished children access to nutritious food would be a meaningful, positive difference—but to create a sustainable impact, it’s important to do it right. Evidence from decades of efforts to reduce malnutrition worldwide points to simple, low-cost solutions such as breastfeeding and vitamin supplementation. These tools are often underused in poor communities—but peer-to-peer learning has demonstrated success in promoting and spreading these healthy behaviors to moms and families.

Our Saving Children’s Lives: A Global Public Health Tookit features one particularly successful approach. Food for the Hungry’s Care Group program trains volunteer mothers in healthy nutrition and sanitation practices. Those volunteer mothers pass on what they’ve learned to members of their community.

With this simple approach, FH’s Care Group program in Mozambique reduced under-five mortality by an estimated 30% and reduced child malnutrition by 38% over a five-year period. This translates into an estimated 5,000 children’s lives saved. And what does that kind of change cost? In this model, serving one mother costs approximately $3, and the estimated cost per life saved is in the range of $440-$660.

For those interested in the Care Group model, click here to find a range of resources, including tips for assessing projects and additional opportunities for entrepreneurial donors. You can also read our Q&A with Food for the Hungry’s Tom Davis.

Unfortunately, child mortality stems from many causes.  To learn about additional high-impact approaches addressing issues like pneumonia, newborn health, vaccine-preventable diseases, and many other concerns affecting children around the world, visit our full toolkit to learn how you can help move towards a world where every child celebrates their fifth birthday.