A grumbling belly. A shorter temper. Reduced focus, impatience, headaches. Most people can relate to these symptoms of hunger. For those of us with access to food, these signals remind us to reach for a snack or make plans for dinner. Everyone feels hunger, but when you know you’ll go home to a stocked pantry, hunger is only a mild inconvenience.

What happens when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from? What happens when your pantry is empty for days… or weeks? What happens when you don’t even have a kitchen? Before too long, chronic hunger becomes malnutrition, and malnutrition becomes deadly.

What is malnutrition?

Simply put, malnutrition is a lack of sufficient nutrients in the body, typically resulting from not having enough to eat or not having the right things to eat. It weakens the immune system causing people to get sick and stay sick longer. Malnutrition causes extreme tiredness, weakness and shivering cold — yet those who lack proper nutrition might already feel that way because they often lack other comforts such as heat, water and shelter.

Malnutrition causes a host of illnesses at any age, but children are especially vulnerable. The first 1,000 days (about 2.5 years) of a child’s life are critical for nutrition. Studies show that children who do not receive proper nutrition in their first few years display stunted growth, cognitive impairments, and long-term health challenges. Still worse, half of all deaths in children under the age of five are connected to malnutrition in some way.

What does malnutrition look like?

At age four, David’s body began shutting down. Painful wounds covered his tender skin. His tiny frame was swollen. He refused to eat, crying when touched. He was brought to a Medical Teams clinic and diagnosed with malnutrition. This was a serious form of hunger that caused more than just a grumbling stomach — a simple snack couldn’t save him anymore. For two weeks, little David fought for his precious life.

little boy's face

Thankfully, highly skilled staff recognized the signs and symptoms of malnutrition. Because regular food is difficult to digest for children with severe malnutrition, with appropriate doses of antibiotics, fluids, and specialized formulated high-calorie milk,  David’s vital signs stabilized. This was just the beginning of David’s path to recovery, and the Medical Teams staff didn’t stop there. They provided outpatient care to rebuild his strength and they continue to offer food support to keep David from becoming malnourished again.

Nutrition heals

It’s not only children, and it’s not only David. Nutrition impacts 1 out of every 9 people in the world. In fact, Dr. Francesco Branca, director of the department of nutrition for health and development at the World Health Organization, identifies malnutrition as “the main cause of death and disease in the world.” At Medical Teams, we know the scale of the problem we face, but we do more than provide life-saving nutrition — we offer hope.

Although the problem is complex, the solution is simple. Malnourished people need the care David received. They need stable access to malnutrition treatment and medical care. And the cost to provide that care is relatively inexpensive, especially when a child’s life is at stake.

“Nutrition saves lives. I’ve saved very many lives because of nutrition. I’ve saved very many families mainly because of nutrition.” — Monicah, Medical Teams Nutritionist

Adequate nutrition is essential. In many ways, nutrition is the most essential form of health care because it fuels the body to fight disease, heal wounds, and regulate emotions.

Medical Teams helps treat and prevent malnutrition

Medical Teams is established in communities where malnourishment would otherwise leave children like David without help or hope. With the help of our donors and dedicated staff, we watched David’s eyes focus on his grandmother’s loving smile. We watched his body strengthen and his spirit lift. And now with your help, we can see many more children — and their families — restored to health and wholeness.

Little boy, smiling, holding orange ball

Everyone knows the feeling of hunger. What if we felt hungry for more than just food? What if we felt hunger for a world where every person was nourished to flourish in the image of God?

You can help heal another precious life like David’s. When you give to Medical Teams International, you feed your hunger for a world restored. Join us in the battle to fight for a future where every child is given a chance to grow strong.

Help provide life-saving medical care to children like David by donating today.