Starved for Attention – The Problem of Child Malnutrition

Starved for Attention spotlights the problem of child malnutrition all over the world. Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has put together a multimedia campaign to show what is happening in the areas where children need the most help.

Seven photojournalists traveled to Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, India, Mexico, and the United States to film families struggling to feed their children. The short films examine how the families live, what their governments are doing to help, and what we can do to help.

Hunger or Malnutrition?

In many cases, we find out it’s not so much about a lack of food – food aid organizations distribute huge amounts of food – it’s more about the quality of food. The U.S. sends out large quantities of a corn-soy meal to various areas where hunger is a pressing issue. As one doctor with MSF tells the camera, the meal stops the hunger, but provides little nutrition, especially for growing children.

Corn has several B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium in good quantities, but just a smattering of other vitamins and minerals. Soy has a similar nutritional profile, good with the B vitamins and some minerals, including iron, but still lacking in several necessary nutrients.

Improving Child Nutrition

The argument in the film is not that food aid is bad – it definitely does a lot of good for people who have nothing else to eat. The argument is that the nutritional needs of children are higher than for adults and specific. Food aid organizations and governments who supply the foods should formulate the meal to contain more nutrition.

The stories at Starved for Attention are all interesting and worth watching. They’re heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.  Here’s one about the situation in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Image of Mexico, 2009 (c) John Stanmeyer/VII, used with permission.

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