Throughout the world, thousands of children suffer from severe malnutrition. Drought, famine, isolation, and skyrocketing food prices in some of the more remote locales in the world can lead to food insecurity for children. Many of them are located right here in the United States, as well as impoverished areas in Africa and Asia. While many initiatives exist to combat child hunger and provide meals to those in need, long-term solutions for this major world problem are scarce. In addition, they can be difficult to implement effectively.
Teddy Shares is changing the face of the child malnutrition fight through their innovative approach to combating child hunger. Founded by philanthropist and businesswoman Sharon Bush, this organization offers an effective solution to malnutrition through an innovative fundraising proposal.
The Prevalence of Child Malnutrition
According to the United Nations, child malnutrition is prevalent in many countries across the continent of Africa. While not all African citizens live in food insecure situations, a large population of children suffers from malnutrition, mainly in rural and remote areas. The effects of malnutrition include stunting and limited growth, which affects the overall long-term health of these children.
In 2011, 1 in 3 African children under the age of 5 was stunted due to malnutrition. Stunting seems to affect boys more than girls. Out of children aged 1 to 5 years, stunting across Africa includes:
- 42% of Eastern African children
- 38% of West African children
- 36% of Central African children
- 35% of South African children
- 28% of North African children
In addition, five African countries had a significant percentage of children who had severe wasting. Wasting is the effect of malnutrition that causes muscle and fat loss and, if left untreated with continued malnutrition, will eventually lead to starvation.
- 10% of South Sudan’s children in 2010 were severely wasted
- 7% of Nigerian children in 2008 were severely wasted
- 6% of children in Mali (2006) and Chad (2010) were severely wasted
- 5% of Sudanese children in 2010 were severely wasted
Malnutrition is a severe issue in Africa, and several organizations are working to combat it on the ground, at the source, and from abroad. UNICEF identifies a few key strategies to effectively combat child malnutrition that organizations should consider when engaging in this work:
- Focusing on women’s health during pregnancy and infancy, encouraging good nutrition and early and exclusive breastfeeding
- High-quality, safe, and timely complementary food
- Increasing access to safe drinking water and good sanitation
- Performing appropriate micronutrient interventions
- Assessing and decreasing the risk of malaria, pneumonia, and other diseases that contribute to stunting
Sharon Bush and Teddy Shares
Founded by philanthropist and accomplished businesswoman Sharon Bush, the Teddy Shares organization is unique in the landscape of organizations fighting child malnutrition in Africa. Using a unique fundraising model, Teddy Shares sells teddy bears to people around the world to raise money for vital supplements to supply to malnourished African children. Not only does the Teddy Shares model provide a source of joy to the child who receives the bear, the purchase of the bear goes directly toward improving another child’s health.
They call the supplement Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based substance aimed at reducing the effects of wasting and stunting in African children. Founder and CEO, Ms. Sharon Bush believes in the idea of setting an example for sharing resources with those less fortunate, and this belief has become one of the main tenets of the Teddy Shares organization.
Through Plumpy’Nut and Teddy Shares’ organizational model, profits from the sale of bears go directly toward long-lasting solutions for malnourished African children. While Teddy Shares is not currently in operation, the model that it has developed sets a lasting example for other charitable organizations. Organizations devoted to fighting malnutrition in Africa must be conscious of how their actions generate real-world solutions, understanding that resources must have a long-lasting impact on a child’s health to combat wasting and stunting.
The Plumpy’Nut Supplement
Unlike supplements taken in pill form that can be difficult for children to swallow, the Plumpy’Nut supplement comes in foil packets and has the consistency of peanut butter. Simply put, Plumpy’Nut is a peanut-based substance that has a soft and sticky texture, packed full of vitamins and calories to help malnourished individuals gain weight and absorb necessary nutrients. Introduced in 2010, this supplement has been credited with lowering mortality rates during African famines and taking a malnourished child from starvation to health in as little as a month.
While Teddy Shares operations are currently closed, the lesson of Sharon Bush’s innovative model to combat child malnutrition poses opportunities for future action. Fundraising initiatives come and go as all organizations and businesses do, but the concepts remain. Child malnutrition is pervasive and systemic, deserving of long-term solutions to restore children’s nutritional health.
The leadership of Sharon Bush and the Teddy Shares team will inspire child malnutrition actions for years to come – until we finally eradicate this major world issue.