A significant breakthrough in how severe malnutrition is treated is being made possible because of a unique partnership between the charity Action Against Hunger and the innocent Foundation.

HERE, INNOCENT CEO, DOUGLAS LAMONT, REVEALS HOW PURSUING AN INNOVATIVE AND AMBITIOUS AGENDA CAN HELP COMPANIES PLAY A ROLE IN SOLVING CRITICAL INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGES.

Mali is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations; it’s also one of its poorest.

 

Forty two percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. Meanwhile, nearly two thirds of the country is made up of desert, which leads to chronic food insecurity.

 

At innocent, we’re proud to give 10% of our profits to charity, with a large part of this commitment going to the innocent Foundation, whose mission is to help the world’s hungry. 

In 2014, the Foundation set out on a bold journey to make a tackle severe acute malnutrition (SAM). At innocent, one of our core values is being entrepreneurial. We wanted to carry that spirit into the work of the innocent Foundation, so the trustees set out to back ideas that could be transformational while accepting the risk that they might not work.

 

One of the first projects we backed through our breakthrough ideas approach was a pilot scheme presented to us by the amazing charity Action Against Hunger. The ambition was to transform the treatment of SAM – the most dangerous level of hunger – by moving care away from larger community centres and bringing treatment directly to the villages where it was most needed.  

 

By taking this approach, the charity believed they could reach a far higher proportion of children from SAM while continuing to work in a more cost-effective way, with the same quality of care as traditional health facilities.

 

While simple in its conception, proving it could work and was safe was going to be a real challenge. The Foundation invested £1m into the pilot as the sole funder. Today, that work is beginning to offer the world a breakthrough approach for treatment.

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WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME: “ISN’T PURPOSE, VISION AND VALUES JUST NICE STUFF TO BE STUCK ON A WALL?”, WE ARE ABLE TO TELL THEM THAT – IF YOU TRULY LIVE IT – IT REALLY CAN BE TRANSFORMATIONAL

At the time, many young mothers were required to walk 20km to the local health centre, which meant very few people went. But this new pilot programme would be made possible with newer, more portable measurement tools and improvements to nutritional solutions, which made them easier to deliver directly where they were needed.

 

We worked together with the University of Mali and Action Against Hunger to create a new programme where community health workers would be trained to make assessments, using a very simple upper arm circumference band and deliver vital nutrition supplements – using high protein peanut bars – directly in the villages, thereby removing the need for travel to health care centres.

 

In the first phase, this approach doubled the treatment rate in a small region of Mali, with the second phase expanded across three more. Today, the Mali government are now the first in the world to change their national policy to include training for all community health workers to complete diagnosis and treatment for severe acute malnutrition. 

 

Meanwhile, research sites in Mali, Kenya, Niger and Mauritania are benefitting from improved diagnosis and treatment.  As a result, the United Nations are now looking at the programme, which may in future inform their global approach. 

 

For us, at the innocent Foundation, these results are exactly the kind of breakthrough we were looking to achieve. Our entrepreneurial approach has already led to a substantial number of lives being saved, and in the future, could form the basis of global healthcare policy, saving millions of lives.

 

When people ask me: “Isn’t purpose, vision and values just nice stuff to be stuck on a wall?”, we are able to tell them that – if you truly live it – it really can be transformational. 

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