Save the Children has announced Sir Mo Farah as patron of its new Global Malnutrition Initiative.

Sir Mo Farah has been an Ambassador for Save the Children since 2017 when he notably led a fundraising campaign for the charity’s East Africa Appeal as well as generously donating £100,000 from the Mo Farah Foundation. The money raised from the appeal delivered life-saving aid to malnourished children and families caught up in a severe drought in the Horn of Africa.

The efforts of the international community and the generosity of the British public averted a catastrophic famine in 2017. Two years later, however, the region is facing another severe drought. Global hunger is on the rise for the first time in 10 years and malnutrition remains a leading cause of deaths in children under five.

In response, Save the Children has launched the Global Malnutrition Initiative which will pilot innovative approaches to tackling malnutrition in fragile and conflict affected states. These pilot sites are in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, South Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia, where Sir Mo Farah was born.

Sir Mo Farah says:
“I am a proud Ambassador of Save the Children’s and its incredible work around the world. I am delighted to help spearhead the Global Malnutrition Initiative. This initiative will reach thousands of children in need and change for good the way malnutrition is prevented, diagnosed, and treated in some of the world’s most fragile countries.

“As a father of four, it’s hard to see the situation facing children in many parts of the world especially Somalia where I was born. I’m really looking forward to helping Save the Children raise awareness of their initiative and crucially secure much needed funds to deliver their life-saving work.”

The Global Malnutrition Initiative has already helped save the lives of children such as 18-month-old Lawrence* from Kenya.

Lawrence is adored by his older brother Leolida, aged 12. Leolida plays with him and looks after him when their mother Jennifer is cooking or cleaning. He even shares his food with him and often goes to bed hungry as a result.

“Lawrence is my little brother that I love very much and I would do anything to help him,” says Leolida.

Leolida believes that playing helps to distract Lawrence from his hunger. “He is not hungry when you play with him, he is just happy,” says Leolida.

With so little to eat, Lawrence fell ill with severe acute malnutrition – he had diarrhoea and a fever and was about half the weight of a healthy child his age.

Thanks to a new Save the Children programme funded by the Global Malnutrition Initiative, Leolida and his mum haven’t had to cope with Lawrence’s illness alone. Thanks to Save the Children, a Community Health Volunteers, Mark, was on hand to diagnose little Lawrence and give him the antibiotics and highly nutritious food he needed to begin his recovery.

Jennifer had already lost two children, one to malaria and one to stomach problems – partly because of the lack of available health services. Now that Community Health Volunteers like Mark have been deployed in the village thanks to Save the Children’s help, Jennifer’s children can get regular health checks close to home. Without Mark, Jennifer would have to walk for two hours to the nearest health clinic, or a whole day to the local hospital 12km away. She believes her other two children would have survived if Mark had been working in the village when they fell sick.

As well as helping Lawrence get well again, Mark has also inspired Leolida’s new career aspiration. “I want to become a doctor so that I can help other young children like my younger brother Lawrence,” he says.

Gemma Sherrington, Executive Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Save the Children says:

“For the first time in a decade, global hunger is on the rise. Nearly half of all deaths in children under five are caused because children don’t have enough of the right food to eat or can’t access live saving treatment for malnutrition and other associated illnesses. It’s an especially critical factor in tackling pneumonia, the biggest infectious killer of children.

“Our teams know how to identify and treat malnutrition – more than 80% of children who receive treatment recover. But currently, only a fifth of those who desperately need treatment can access it because health services are not easily accessible to them.

“With the help of Sir Mo Farah, the Global Malnutrition Initiative will be pioneering innovative approaches to tackling malnutrition. We’ll be taking healthcare directly into the community by training up Community Health Volunteers and equipping them with easy-to-use toolkits. We’ll also increase long term funding so that we’re not just responding in emergencies but also helping communities to reduce malnutrition in the first place.

“Save the Children is incredibly grateful to Sir Mo Farah for continuing to support Save the Children to stand side by side with children, helping them to survive and thrive so they can go on to build a better future.”

In his role as patron of the Global Malnutrition Initiative, Sir Mo Farah will travel to Kenya later in the year with the Save the Children team.

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