The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tim Shenk,Press Officer,Direct: 212-763-5764,E-mail:,

Starved for Attention: A Radical New Vision of Malnutrition

Doctors Without Borders and VII Photo Launch Global Multimedia Campaign on Childhood Malnutrition; Crisis Affects 195 Million Children Worldwide


The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without
Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the VII Photo agency today
launched "Starved for Attention," a global multimedia campaign
presenting a unique and new perspective of childhood malnutrition, a
preventable and treatable condition that nonetheless claims the lives of
millions of children each year.

The collaboration challenges established notions of malnutrition
through a seven-part mini-documentary series; cliched images are
substituted with those of parents and health workers struggling to meet
the nutritional needs of young, growing children. Starved for Attention
highlights how increased childhood sickness and early death can be
prevented with effective nutritional interventions. The campaign launch
coincides with the onset of a particularly harsh "hunger gap" season in
Africa's Sahel region, the period when staple food crops run out before
the next harvest and malnutrition typically increases.

The documentaries will be released over a seven-week period beginning
today at:

"Documenting malnutrition has been one of the toughest challenges our
agency has faced," said VII Photographer Ron Haviv. "There is a sense
that this story has already been told through the body of work produced
by photojournalists who covered famines of the 20th century. Yet we
believe that we have found a completely new visual language to tell this
story -- one that has the potential for great impact."

At any given time, an estimated 195 million children are affected by
malnutrition worldwide. It contributes to at least one-third of the
eight million annual deaths of children under five years of age. These
deaths are preventable if the nutritional requirements of young children
are met. Starved for Attention underscores the possible, focusing on
successful strategies implemented daily to address malnutrition, and how
they can, and must, be expanded.

The most vulnerable are children up to two years of age, whose
nutritional needs are especially high. If children in that time-frame
do not receive quality foods that provide balanced nutrition, they face
stunting, cognitive impairment, and increased vulnerability to disease.
At worst, they can face early death.

"Our medical teams working in more than 30 countries with high levels
of malnutrition, in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, have demonstrated
that with early intervention with quality, balanced foods, countless
children can be spared the consequences of malnutrition," said Dr.
Christophe Fournier, president of MSF's International Council "We know
what children need. It's simply a matter of ensuring they get it." In
2009, MSF treated 250,000 malnourished children in 34 countries.

VII photojournalists Marcus Bleasdale, Jessica Dimmock, Ron Haviv,
Antonin Kratochvil, Franco Pagetti, Stephanie Sinclair, and John
Stanmeyer contributed to Starved for Attention. They traveled to rural
villages, war zones, teeming capitals, and mountain hideaways to
document childhood malnutrition and its varied faces: the incongruity of
malnourished children in lush and bountiful Congo; the cyclical nature
of malnutrition in Bangladesh; the impact of the annual "lean season" in
the Sahel. Highlighting successful treatment and prevention programs
in countries like Mexico and the United States, Starved for Attention
emphasizes the great potential for combating early childhood

The Starved for Attention campaign seeks to build a critical mass of
awareness that will translate into reforms of humanitarian food
assistance and nutrition programs for malnourished children, and the
mobilization of resources needed to scale up programs to prevent and
treat malnutrition. Visitors to can add their
names to a global petition drive titled "Overcoming Childhood
Malnutrition: The Time to Act is Now."

Currently, international food donors mostly provide cereal-based
fortified flours. While these foods can relieve hunger, they do not meet
the nutritional requirements of young, growing children. For example,
the US, the world's largest food aid donor, is sending sub-standard
foods that do not meet basic nutrition requirements for infants and
young children. These foods would not be provided to children in the
US. Starved for Attention exposes this double standard.

Tested strategies to address malnutrition are effective and are showing
promising results in many countries. Some, including Mexico, Thailand,
and Brazil, have reduced early childhood malnutrition through direct
nutrition programs that ensure infants and young children from even the
poorest families have access to quality foods, such as milk and eggs. At
the same time there is growing political will in Asian and African
countries to replicate successful programs. The Starved for Attention
petition calls for support to these efforts.

Along with the multilingual website, the global campaign launches in
New York City tonight with an exhibit and panel discussion event,
followed by an exhibit at the VII Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The
multimedia exhibit will travel to Toronto, Milan, and Rome, among

Tonight's event will be webcast at:

Starved for Attention is made possible with the support of LG
Electronics, which has provided financial support and its latest
generation INFINIA flat panel television screens to display the
project's documentaries in exhibitions.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.