Catastrophic outbreak of child malnutrition threatens world, says UNICEF

Note this information title published today Deadly waste: A silent emergency that threatens the survival of children It shows that in the face of increasing rates of serious childhood loss and the rising cost of treatment for this condition, global funding to save the lives of affected children is also at risk.

“Global food security was affected before the war in Ukraine. Families were already struggling to feed their children due to conflict, climate change and COVID-19,” said Katherine Russell, managing director of the United Nations Children’s Fund. “The world is now on the brink of an explosion of preventable infant mortality and childhood loss.”

Currently, at least 10 million severely malnourished children – two-thirds – do not have access to ready-to-use therapeutic foods, which is the most effective treatment for this condition.



UNICEF Somalia Makundi

In 2017, a four-year-old fellow was treated by UNICEF in Somalia for severe malnutrition.

Rising prices

According to UNICEF, the combined effects of global shocks, which are undermining global food security – such as the war in Ukraine, the difficulty of economic recovery after the epidemic and the persistent drought caused by climate change – are continuing in many countries. Conditions for a significant increase in the rate of fatal waste worldwide.

According to estimates, its price Therapeutic food ready for use Rising raw material costs are expected to increase by up to 16% in the next six months. Given the current funding level, there is a risk that another 600,000 children will be deprived of this life-saving treatment. Shipping and distribution costs, which are high, are also not expected to decrease.

“Every year, the lives of millions of children depend on the preparation of this therapeutic sachet. If global food markets seem to be able to absorb an additional 16% of the cost, it is the life of a child suffering from severe malnutrition who, at the end of the supply chain, is at risk due to such growth. However, for this child, the bet is unacceptable, “added Katherine Russell.

Characterized by extremely low weight compared to height due to weakened immune system, fatal wasting is the most immediate, visible and fatal form of malnutrition. Worldwide, at least 13.6 million children under the age of 5 suffer from the disease, accounting for one-fifth of all deaths at this age.

Sahel is particularly impressed

South Asia remains the “center” of deadly waste, affecting 1 in 22 children, three times more than sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere in the world, deadly waste has reached historically high rates. In Afghanistan, for example, 1.1 million children are at risk of severe malnutrition this year, almost double that of 2018.

In Africa’s drought-stricken Horn, the number of severely malnourished children could rise rapidly from 1.7 million to 2 million, with a 26% increase expected in Sahel compared to 2018.

The report further highlights that some relatively stable countries, such as Uganda, have seen an increase of 40% or more in child abuse since 2016. This situation is explained by growing poverty and family food insecurity, which has impacted food quality and frequency for infants and pregnant women. Also, climate-related shocks such as severe drought cycles and problems accessing safe water supply and sanitation services contribute to an increase in the number of cases.

The report also warns of a serious lack of funding for waste, knowing that a sharp decline is expected in the coming years with little hope of returning to pre-epidemic levels before 2028. A new analysis conducted as part of this note represents only 2.8% of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget allocated to the health sector in general and 0.2% of the total ODA amount on global expenditure expenditure.

UNICEF asks that every child who suffers from severe wasting may benefit from life-saving treatment:

  • Governments have increased support for waste by at least 59% compared to the 2019 ODA level, which aims to reach all children in need of treatment in 23 high-burden countries;
  • Countries are integrating child abuse treatment with long-term health and development funding plans so that all children – even those not in humanitarian crisis – can benefit from treatment activities;
  • Budget allocations to address the global food crisis include funds dedicated to therapeutic meals to meet the immediate needs of children who regularly suffer from chronic wasting;
  • Donors and civil society organizations are improving the fight against waste as a priority for financing to ensure that the financial aid ecosystem is diversified, expanded and strengthened.

“Nothing can justify a child suffering from severe malnutrition – especially since we have the potential to prevent this pathology. We have very little time left to resume global action to prevent, detect and treat malnutrition, and we must use it before the situation can escalate further, “concluded Katherine Russell.

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