Saturday, January 16, 2010

An Interview with Susanna Masur from Action Against Hunger

An Interview with Susanna Masur from Action Against Hunger

Closing out hunger week, Jessica and I wanted to interview someone who could speak to this devastating issue on an international level. Our interview with City Harvest allowed us to address the impact of hunger locally, so we felt it was important to also look at it from an international standpoint.

I have known about the organization, Action Against Hunger for some time now. I am on their newsletter list and I’ve always been interested in the work they were doing. Once we began “What You Can Do” they were one of the organizations I was hoping would sign on and sure enough – they did! Below is my interview with Susannah Masur from Action Against Hunger. In getting her expert viewpoint, what I found most interesting was that, while most of us know how widespread an epidemic hunger and malnutrition are, I’m not sure how many people realize that there are specific solutions out there. Indeed, this problem seems to come with some hopeful answers.

The following is the interview with Susannah. Hopefully you find it as interesting as I did!

1. What, if any, misconceptions do you feel that people have about world hunger?

One major misconception is that world hunger is a problem too daunting to solve. In reality, the fight against hunger can be won. We have the tools and knowledge to do it. What we lack is the political will. In the 21st century, we’ve made major strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS. And most countries on earth have banned the use of landmines. We can do the same for hunger, but people have to stand up and demand it.

Another common misconception is that hunger is mostly limited to Africa. On the contrary, malnutrition is rampant throughout much of the developing world. In fact, the country with the greatest number of malnourished children is actually India. Despite their growing middle class, millions of children there don’t get the nutrients they need to survive.

  1. In your opinion, what is the greatest hope on the horizon regarding the fight against world hunger?

There is reason to be very optimistic about the fight against hunger. For the first time in history, we can end acute malnutrition, a condition that affects some 55 million children today and kills up to five million of them every year.

A range of nutritional products has been developed in the last few years that has literally revolutionized the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition. Ready-to-Use Foods, or RUFs for short, are specially formulated to jumpstart a malnourished child’s metabolism, revive organ and cell function, and initiate weight gain. Unlike previous products, they require no preparation, no mixing with water, no refrigeration, and most importantly, no hospitalization. Action Against Hunger has saved hundreds of thousands of lives using these RUFs by working with community members to identify, treat, and follow-up with acutely malnourished children. Still, less than 10% of children suffering from acute malnutrition around the world have access to life-saving treatment.

The good news is that community-based care using RUFs can be scaled up to reach the millions of children suffering from the condition. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened yet because it hasn’t been made a priority. At Action Against Hunger, we’re trying to change that through a new campaign to end acute malnutrition. to learn more.

  1. If someone is motivated beyond our 1 minute idea in the fight to end world hunger, what is your recommendation for them to do?

They can stay informed about the issues by signing up for newsletters and email alerts. They can to keep up-to-date on Action Against Hunger’s life-saving humanitarian programs and latest developments in the fight against hunger.

Or, they can donate to organizations like Action Against Hunger that have proven success in fighting hunger and are cost-effective. Given more time, they can host a party at home to raise awareness and funds for organizations of their choosing.

Or what about giving a gift that gives back? There are a number of establishments that donate a portion of their proceeds to hunger organizations. Visit for a list of participating stores.

  1. Has working with Action Against Hunger changed you in any way that you’d like to share with our audience?

Action Against Hunger is an extraordinary organization, and I’m privileged to be among a group of dedicated and passionate colleagues. I’ve been truly inspired by their work with populations in crisis and by the professionalism they show, even under the most difficult circumstances.

I’ll give you one example: Daisy Nyaga, our Public Health Program Manager in Kenya, was just honored for the extraordinary work she does in distressed communities. Daisy works with families to improve their health and prevent illnesses like malaria, dysentery, and cholera that are major contributing factors to malnutrition and kill millions of children in developing countries every year. She spends hours and hours talking to mothers and their children about basic care practices—like the importance of breast-feeding and nutrient-rich diets—and steps they can take to improve hygiene and sanitation. This is exhausting work, but it’s critically important in Kenya and other countries where unsanitary conditions lead to childhood deaths. It’s amazing what a difference she and the thousands of other Action Against Hunger staff working around the world have made. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them.

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