Addressing basic drivers of acute malnutrition in African drylands

Co-Creation Challenges



Name of team FAO - Program and Policy Team - Office of Emergency and Resilience
Our Partner TUFTS University
Washington States University
Government of Chad (Ministries of Health, Livestock and Environment)
Government of South Sudan
Government of Kenya
Institute de recherche pour l'elevage et le development, Chad

Country or countries of your activity

Headquarters with implementation in Chad, South Sudan and Kenya

Themes of Activity

Children, child-rearing, education, next-generation development

Science and technology, biotechnology

Health and medical care (life science, health care)


Biodiversity, natural environment, organisms

Agriculture, forestry, fishery

Recycling-oriented society, circular economy

Diversity and inclusiveness

Robots, AI

Overseas support and cooperation, international exchange

Our Co-Creation Challenge

In many ongoing protracted crisis, humanitarian needs escalate but resources become increasingly scarce. However, Interventions to prevent acute malnutrition has predominantly focused on food and medical aid, neglecting the pivotal role of agricultural intervention. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on child wasting prevention released in November 2023, reveal that the evidence for preventing wasting is mixed and largely inconclusive, with only limited impacts observed. Our project aims to generate and disseminate knowledge to pioneering a paradigm shift that acknowledges the essential role of agriculture in addressing child wasting within humanitarian and fragile contexts.
Through the analysis of existing data on food insecurity, acute malnutrition, livelihoods, environment and conflict in five countries (Chad, DRC, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan), ou project aims at understanding better the basic drivers of acute malnutrition and at gathering empirical evidence to inform how to address sustainably acute malnutrition in protracted crisis. The success of our endeavour would result in creating a paradigm shift and convincing stakeholders and other humanitarian actors of the criticallity of adressing basic drivers of acute malnultrition to obtain sustaible outcomes. Such shift in the approach and an increased investment in agricultural interventions would contribute to reducing rates and relapse rates of acute malnutrition (SDG 3), as well as strengthening production, livelihoods' resilience as well as households' resilience (SDG 1 and 2).

Development of initiatives

Methods and Areas for Future Development 1. Conducting analyses on the systematic drivers of child wasting to tailor FAO Emergency and Resilience activities portfolio to prevent acute child malnutrition: We plan to assist interested country offices (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mali, and the Niger) in conducting in-depth analyses of the localized and systemic drivers of child wasting. This effort aims to identify drivers of acute child malnutrition linked with livelihoods, thereby enhancing the targeting and impact of the FAO Emergencies and Resilience activities portfolio. Innovations such as local modelling and artificial intelligence will be employed to create adaptable and scalable analytical methods for contexts persistently affected by acute child malnutrition. 2. Generating evidence on the impact of emergency and resilience agricultural interventions in addressing acute child malnutrition: This priority area revolves around investigating the life-saving impact of FAO's interventions on preventing child wasting. Specific initiatives include: - Assess the impact of locally produced supplementary food on preventing relapse in malnourished children through longitudinal surveys in Nigeria. - Implementation of a randomized control trial in Chad and Kenya as part of the "Livestock for Health" research to evaluate the effect of integrated livestock management interventions on preventing acute malnutrition in pastoralist contexts. - Evaluate the impact of livelihood activity packages aimed at reducing high relapse or death rates (47 percent) post-treatment in South Sudan 3. Capacity building, institutionalization, communication and uptake: This workstream will capitalize on the knowledge generated by the team to understand and address acute child malnutrition in the last ten years. It seeks to promote uptake and institutionalize an evidence-driven approach to combating acute malnutrition via agricultural programming in emergencies. For 2024, planned activities include producing, disseminating and communicating our research findings and methodologies. We will also host a workshop in South Sudan to encourage direct knowledge exchange and capacity building. Additionally, an event at FAO headquarters and a donor event in New York/Geneva are scheduled to share insights and secure ongoing support. In addition, the team is planning multiple publications covering various areas such as localized modelling using AI, analysis of the drivers of child acute malnutrition and impact assessments.
People who wish to work with By engaging a diverse range of stakeholders and leveraging on each's expertise, namely universities, research institutes, humanitarian community, civil society and governments, we aim to achieve the paradigm shift that acknowledges the essential role of agriculture in addressing child wasting within humanitarian and fragile contexts.

Universities and research institutes: play an important role in ensuring access to a unique breadth of knowledge and experience along with highly skilled research expertise. As a result, they play an essential role in establishing new evidence to solve problems and improve child wasting operations from a basic drivers’ perspective. FAO has been collaborating with Tufts University, Washington State University, University of N'Jdamena, and Institute de recherche pour l'elevage et le development (Chad) to generate evidence on the importance of considering and mitigating the impact basic drivers and supporting resilient pastoral livelihoods to address persistent acute malnutrition in African drylands.

Humanitarian community: are key partners to ensure sustainable and long-lasting results in working together towards the mutual goal of reducing persistent global acute malnutrition. Working together and not in siloes is paramount within the humanitarian community to ensure that consensus is reached in meeting the needs of crisis-affected people in a timely, relevant, efficient, coherent, and sustainable way. FAO will partner with NGOs, other UN Agencies (WFP, UNICEF, the Food Security Cluster) for capacity strengthening and sharing, coordination, financing and funding, advocacy and communication.

Governments: Due to their role in policymaking, resource allocation, commitment and implementation of nutrition initiatives, partnering with governments is a mandatory step to ensure the adaptation and scale up of agriculture-based interventions to address child wasting. In particular, partnerships will be established with the Government of Chad (Ministries of Health, Livestock and Environment) Government of South Sudan and Government of Kenya.

Civil society: play a critical role in the fight against hunger given their technical expertise, their proximity to and representation of the most vulnerable, and their increasing presence in the field. Civil societies give a voice to stakeholders and ensure that their views and opinions are taken into account. By engaging with and building on the experience of civil society, we aim to increase the effectiveness of FAO field projects and programmes in nutrition-sensitive agriculture, while leveraging their capacity to act quickly and flexibly targeting the most vulnerable groups.

Our SDGs