40 Years Leading the Fight Against Hunger

In 1979, Action Against Hunger’s first intervention was launched to help Afghani refugees in Pakistan.

This is a special month in Action Against Hunger’s history: it’s been 40 years since our founding. On November 15, 1979, a group of French academics, scientists, and doctors banded together to create a better way to deal with hunger. They established Action contre La Faim – the world’s first and only NGO exclusively focused on eradicating hunger and malnutrition.

Our first decade was marked by famines of a magnitude rarely seen today, which took place in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia. To meet the needs of people in these countries and elsewhere, we grew: by 1989, Action Against Hunger had expanded to more than 20 countries. Over the years, we became the world’s hunger specialists – and we have helped to revolutionize the fight against hunger.

1990’s: Pioneering How We Treat Malnutrition

A child eats Plumpy’Nut, the ready-to-use therapeutic food that can bring malnourished children from a medical crisis to full health in as little as 45 days.
Photo by: Christophe Da Silva for Action Against Hunger Central African Republic

Thirty years ago, the medical community didn’t have a cure for malnutrition – so, in 1993, we created it. Our team of scientists developed F100, the first-ever therapeutic formula to treat severely malnourished children.

A few years later, scientists adapted this milk-based treatment to create Plumpy’Nut, the ready-to-use therapeutic food that can bring a malnourished child from a medical crisis to recovery in as little as 45 days. This peanut paste can last for years without the need for clean water or refrigeration and proved to be an even more effective treatment for malnourished children. We were the first organization to test it in our programs and, with evidence from our field research, we helped to develop the international standard for treatment protocols.

2000’s: Changing Where Malnutrition is Treated

A malnutrition screening at Action Against Hunger health outpost in Niger.
Photo by: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger, Niger

With the new millennium came new thinking: we challenged ourselves to transform where malnutrition could be treated – no longer just in hospitals, but in health centres and in communities. Action Against Hunger and our partners researched and began to implement what became known as the Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) approach, which allowed us to reach even more children in need. Today, more than 70 national governments have adopted this model.

2010’s: Changing Who Treats Malnutrition

A mother measures her child for malnutrition. Photo by: Photo: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger, Kenya

In the last decade, Action Against Hunger has empowered more people to detect and treat malnutrition in their own communities. Instead of relying solely on doctors and nurses in hospitals, we train community health workers, who are learning to not just screen, but treat malnutrition in the villages where they live and work. We’re also teaching volunteers and parents how to spot malnutrition at home, using a measuring band that acts a nutrition thermometer.

What’s Next: Banding Together to End Deadly Malnutrition

Thousands of hard-working staff in nearly 50 countries – with the support of scientists, donors, advocates, and partners around the world – have helped make tremendous progress in the fight against hunger over the last few decades. Since 1990, the proportion of malnourished children globally has been cut in half, and more children are reaching their fifth birthday now than ever in human history.

But our work is nowhere near done: in fact, progress has stalled in the last few years. Conflict and climate change threaten to reverse the gains we’ve made in the last 40 years. Every day, children suffering from hunger are left behind – less than one in four severely malnourished children has access to the treatment that can save their lives.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We know how to treat this deadly illness: we have the science, the tools, and the know-how to save the lives of these children – in fact, 90 percent of malnourished children who complete treatment are cured.

That’s why, today, we call you to Band Together Against Hunger. Just as our founders did 40 years ago, we must rally the global community and redouble our efforts to work with governments, donors, other NGOs, the UN, civil society, the media and others to take action against hunger. By raising our voices, opening our wallets, and inspiring a global movement, we can empower communities and create a world where no child dies of hunger.

Action Against Hunger Through The Years Gallery: 1979-2019