It is a sunny day in the village of Ambohidasy Itaosy. Sitraka and Miranto play together in the courtyard of Sitraka’s house. Miranto helps Sitraka as they each throw stones as far as they can. Sitraka leans on the arm of his friend, as Miranto leads him across the courtyard to compare how far their stones went.

At first glance, one might think how nice it is that the older boy is helping the younger one. The two boys are in fact the same age, five years old. They were born on the same day. However, next to healthy and normally developed Miranto, Sitraka is small, thin and weary.
He suffers from chronic malnutrition.

His mother Mariette explains how her son was born underweight: “The pregnancy went well,” she says, “but I did not have enough to eat and I was working a lot. Even now, I sell what I can, but at times I only make 1,500 ariary (around 65 Australian cents) a day. It is not enough to feed myself and my three other children. My husband works too, but he spends his money on drink.”
Healthy Miranto attends school and like most children, he likes to recount to his parents what he learnt in school. Sitraka, on the other hand, is not ready to go to school. © UNICEF/UN025901/Michel

“He cannot defecate standing up yet, and that will bother the other kids at school,” his mother confides despondently.

Sitraka plays in the courtyard with other kids, but he cannot speak very well. Unfortunately, at only 5 years old, the consequences of his malnutrition are impossible to reverse, creating a vicious cycle of multiple deprivations.

Chronic malnutrition early in a child’s life can impact far more than their growth and height. It can cause stunting, which reduces a child’s cognitive capacity and traps them in a lifetime cycle of poor nutrition, illness, poverty and inequity. Once a child falls behind, it is hard to catch up.
A girl sits on a roof overlooking a city. A girl sits on a roof overlooking a city.
A girl sits on a roof overlooking a city.

No parent should have to watch their child suffer through malnutrition

If malnourished children are reached in time with therapeutic food, their weak bodies can recover fast.

Your $12 donation means a family can receive 25 packets of "miracle food": a high-protein peanut paste that can help bring a severely malnourished child back to a stable condition within weeks.

Our teams and resources are stretched to the limit in Madagascar, Ethiopia and throughout East and Southern Africa. We urgently need your help to reach more children in remote villages, where food, water, vaccines and other supplies are desperately short and every day counts. 90 cents from every dollar donated goes straight to UNICEF's work for children. Please give now.

We can protect children from malnutrition

Sitraka’s situation isn’t unusual. Half of children under five in Madagascar suffer from chronic malnutrition. Now, extreme weather across East and Southern Africa has put another 26 million children - the equivalent of Australia’s entire population - at risk of malnutrition. 

It doesn’t need to be like this. UNICEF uses cost-effective therapeutic food and nutritional supplements to prevent and fight malnutrition. Just $12 can bring 25 packets of urgent therapeutic food to help children recover from malnutrition and protect them from stunting.

90 cents from every dollar donated goes straight to UNICEF's work for children. Please give generously today. Your donations means everything.