Ensuring access to nutrient-rich food and life-saving medical care is essential for protecting the health of millions of people forced to flee.

Malnutrition is a major cause of death in children under the age of five globally. For refugee children, the situation is even more alarming. More than half the world’s refugee camps have unacceptable levels of child malnourishment.

Every day, UNHCR works to ensure families and children forced to flee receive the nutritional support they need to lead happy and healthy lives. Here are three of them.

1. A welcome meal

Many families forced to flee have struggled without access to nutritious food or clean water – sometimes for weeks and months. On arrival at UNHCR reception centres, we provide them with their first nutritious meal. Families also receive ration cards to access food, usually through our partner, the World Food Programme.

UNHCR is also often the first to identify malnourished children at our reception centres. We immediately refer them to hospitals or clinics for urgent care and treatment.

2. The power of peanuts

When babies or young children are extremely malnourished, they cannot tolerate normal food.

Plumpy’Nut® is the most widely-used emergency food to treat severe acute malnutrition in children. Made from peanuts, this high-energy paste contains sugar, vegetable oil and skimmed milk powder enriched with essential vitamins and minerals.

Provided as a ready-to-use sachet, it requires no water or refrigeration, and is easy for children to eat. It’s miraculous – just three sachets a day for a month can take a starving child from impending death to a safe body weight, restoring their health and vitality.

A South Sudanese mother and her child receive food at Pamdong refugee reception centre, Ethiopia. © Australia for UNHCR


3. Support from the start

In times of displacement, pregnant women and new mums can be particularly vulnerable. Some women may become malnourished, while others can lose the confidence or strength to breastfeed their babies.

UNHCR works hard to ensure that mothers-to-be receive prenatal advice, medical care and supplementary rations so their babies are born at a healthy weight and they are able to successfully breastfeed.

This life-saving work would not be possible without the generous support of Australian donors. Thank you!

Right now global malnutrition is threatening the health of children in refugee camps across the world. You can make a real and lasting difference
Find out more

Just three sachets of Plumpy’Nut® a day for a month can bring a malnourished child back to health. © Australia for UNHCR

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