No Wasted Lives Coalition: accelerating evidence-based action on acute malnutrition

By Anne Salter, Research Uptake and Communications Advisor and Amy Mayberry, Head of Evidence, Action Against Hunger UK. 

Acute malnutrition (combining both moderate and severe forms[1])  results in five million preventable child deaths each year, and while more than 70% of those treated for severe acute malnutrition recover successfully, less than 20% of children suffering are able to access the treatment they need. For the first time in decades, the global burden of acute malnutrition is now going up and with increasing famines throughout the world, ensuring effective, affordable treatment is available is a global priority. In this, the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, we have the knowledge, ability and resources to address this, so how do we make it a reality?

A Global Effort to Catalyse Action

No Wasted Lives is putting the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition back on the mainstream

Copyright Action Against Hunger

health and nutrition agenda.  Our aim is to double the proportion of children treated for severe acute malnutrition by 2020. This Coalition, including Action Against Hunger, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the European Commission, UNICEF, the UK government and the World Food Programme, promotes a joined up approach to child health and nutrition.

No Wasted lives aims to:

  • Reduce the cost of curing a child suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
  • Develop new treatment approaches to improve access and treatment coverage.
  • Include policies to scale-up acute malnutrition programming in key bilateral donor strategies.
  • Adopt national nutrition policies that promote prevention and community-based treatment.
  • Increase financial pledges to support actions to address acute malnutrition.

Building and Using the Evidence Base at Regional & Country Level

The No Wasted Lives Coalition is working in regions and countries with the highest needs to ensure that key bottlenecks are addressed and treatment programmes are integrated into national health systems with sustainable and long term planning. A critical pillar of the effort to accelerate this programmatic scale-up is driven by the generation and use of evidence. Linked with strong regional and country-level advocacy and donor alignment and focus on what works effectively at scale, we can drive global action.

Identifying and Driving Research Priorities

The Coalition of Research and Technical Advice on Severe Acute Malnutrition (CORTASAM) was established by No Wasted Lives to help fill gaps in the existing evidence base, to support scale-up of effective programmes and drive the use of evidence for action. This year the CORTASAM launched a survey to consult practitioners on the research priorities that are critical to achieve measurable improvements in the quality, effectiveness, scale and sustainability of programmes addressing acute malnutrition in children under five years of age. Details of the respondents and priority research areas can be found on the No Wasted Lives website.

Making Data & Evidence More Accessible

Aiming to highlight the progress that has been made and best practices across acute malnutrition programming, the Coalition supported the launch of a new website earlier this year: the State of Severe Malnutrition. It provides a comprehensive up-to-date overview of all qualitative and quantitative resources on acute malnutrition from the enabling environment, to supply and demand, and quality of treatment, with both a global perspective and country-specific overviews.

Join us

In order to reach the ambitious goal of doubling the proportion of children annually receiving treatment for severe acute malnutrition by 2020 we need to act together. No Wasted Lives provides a platform to do this.

We need to increase our collective knowledge and capacity to act. We have convened a coalition of partners to kick-start this journey, but we can’t do it alone. We are inviting you to join us. Find out more on the No Wasted Lives website at and get involved by sharing data or submit resources, research and events on the State of Severe Malnutrition Website.

[1] Moderate acute is defined as low weight for height (between -2 and -3 WHZ) or low mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC between 125mm and 115mm). Severe acute malnutrition is defined as very low weight for height (<-3 WHZ) or very low mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC<115mm) and/or the presence of nutritional oedema.