Crying Hunger


Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, 2018.

Despite rapidly growing economies and improved access to education, rates of malnutrition and adolescent pregnancy are escalating in South East Asia – the latter faster than anywhere else in the world – and the two crises are inherently intertwined.

The way we portray malnutrition urgently needs to move away from stereotypes and extremes. It’s not always a matter of jutting rib bones and distended stomachs – and while acute food crises absolutely require attention, we also have to reevaluate the way we are looking at what is happening elsewhere in the world. Malnutrition in Asia is responsible for over 30 per cent of child deaths across the continent – and yet less than a third of children are deemed medically “underweight”. Instead, they’re being fed energy drinks from a few months old, or having sugar spooned straight into their mouths by their mums. There isn’t enough food to achieve excess, so obesity rates stay low. But it’s still malnutrition. And it’s still a desperate situation. 

Girls are particularly vulnerable, due to social hierarchies that place them at the bottom of the food ladder – not to mention teenage pregnancies – rates of which have doubled since 2012, and which serve to stretch resources even thinner: increasing the likelihood of inadequate eating habits for both the mother and child. Accordingly to nutritional experts in the region, nearly half of all women and girls in South East Asia are malnourished, even if they maintain an average BMI.

This series of portraits represents girls from different cultural, educational and family backgrounds – yet all who share stories of gendered discrimination, abuse and ultimately a great struggle for survival.


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