At UNICEF, our top priority is protecting and saving the world’s most vulnerable children. Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) threatens an estimated 16 million children worldwide. It was just over two years ago when we realized that, as much and as hard as they tried, grown ups weren’t solving this problem. Perhaps it was time to let kids have a shot at helping other kids.

In October of 2014, this shot came when over 800 kids in Sacramento, California became the first to join the UNICEF Kid Power Team. In one month, they unlocked nearly 3,000 packets of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). We also found that kids participating in UNICEF Kid Power were 55% more physically active than those who were not participating, and we began to realize the potential of activating kid power to help end global malnutrition.

So we expanded our pilot and, in spring 2015, over 11,000 kids joined the UNICEF Kid Power Team and unlocked more than 140,000 RUTF packets. In the following spring 2016, 68,000 kids unlocked over 385,000 RUTF packets. All in, students had saved nearly 4,000 lives.

Flash forward to this month when we officially welcomed 170,000 students and their teachers (a.k.a. “coaches”) to the UNICEF Kid Power Team. Already they have saved the lives of another 2,700 severely malnourished children—and there is still 2.5 months to go!

We’ve come a long way since 2014, but the one constant has been tapping children’s inner desire to help other children. There’s a reason why UNICEF Kid Power is being touted as the possible “malnutrition miracle.”  

They say you must learn to crawl before you walk, and walk before you can run. Well, we’re sprinting now! From 800 to 170,000, this Kids Helping Kids® movement is in full swing. With so much kid power activating, we cannot wait to see the impact it will have on ending global malnutrition. 

Shout-out to Mr. Zamudio and the students at Sacramento’s Edward Kemble Elementary (our original pilot school) who are still getting active and saving lives!