You wouldn’t know it from looking at her, but this little girl is severely malnourished.
She lives in an orphanage in southern Vietnam, where she recently came into care after recovering at a rehabilitation center in nearby Ho Chi Minh City. She is as light and soft as a feather — and eager to rest her downy head against the shoulder of anyone who will hold her.
In this picture, you can see her clinging to Holt’s vice president of marketing, who met her two weeks ago while visiting our programs in the region. She was so cuddly, he said. But although her eyes were bright and alert and responsive to nurturing touch, her health and her future remain uncertain.
She is still under intensive care at the orphanage, where caregivers are doing all they can to help her thrive. Despite their efforts, however, she is still severely malnourished and will very likely experience cognitive delays.
She is the reason why I am writing to you today — and why I have been writing to you over the past couple of weeks, asking for you to partner with us to strengthen nutrition and feeding for children we serve overseas.
Malnutrition remains a chronic problem among orphaned and abandoned children. Very often, they are born premature or underweight to young mothers who lacked the prenatal care so vital to their baby’s early development. When abandoned at birth, these babies also miss out on the essential nutrients in their mother’s milk — weakening their immune systems and setting them up for lifelong struggles.
This is why a child’s first 1,000 days are so critical.
This is also why our partnership with SPOON Foundation is so groundbreaking. SPOON’s nutrition scientist has already visited this orphanage in Vietnam for an initial assessment. Very soon, she will return to begin assessing the children one by one, and develop a plan to help combat malnutrition and ensure every child reaches his or her full potential.
I have every confidence that SPOON’s plan will work, as it already has at our partner orphanages in India — where the small changes they made to diet and feeding have already dramatically reduced both anemia, a major threat to children’s health, and malnutrition among children in care.
Right now, we are in a tremendous position to make a huge difference for thousands of children. Just at this one orphanage in Vietnam, ten children in care are severely malnourished — including the cuddly girl pictured here. And these ten are among thousands of children we serve in countries around the world — many of them at risk of or already suffering from malnutrition, which is hands-down the biggest killer of children under 5.
Together with you, we can face malnutrition as a united front — working with our partner SPOON to train orphanage staff in the most innovative feeding techniques, and providing the vital nutrition children need to grow, learn and rise out of poverty.