The world is on the cusp of a catastrophic explosion in child acute malnutrition

New York / Paris, May 17, 2022 – The number of severely wasted children was already on the rise before the war in Ukraine threatened to plunge the world into a deeper food crisis And the situation is getting worse, UNICEF warns in a new report for children from SOS.

Today I published an information note Severe wasting: a silent emergency that threatens child survival Explains that in the face of severe wasting rates in children and high treatment costs for this condition, The global funding needed to save the lives of affected children is also at risk.

“Before the war in Ukraine affected global food security, families were already struggling to feed their children due to conflict, weather shocks and COVID-19,” announce Kathryn Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “The world is now on the cusp of an explosion in preventable child mortality and child wasting.”

Access to curative, ready-to-use foods is vital

Currently, at least 10 million children with severe wasting – two thirds of them – do not have access to ready-to-use therapeutic foods, Which constitute the most effective treatment against these diseases. According to UNICEF, the combined effects of global shocks, which undermine global food security – namely, the war in Ukraine, the difficulties of economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic and the persistent drought raging in many countries due to climate change – are under construction. Conditions conducive to a significant increase in severe wasting rates worldwide.

The price of ready-to-use RUTF is expected to increase by up to 16% over the next six months due to higher raw material costs. A situation that threatens to deprive up to 600,000 additional children of this vital treatment, Given the current funding levels. Shipping and distribution costs, which are also high, are also not expected to fall.

Every year, the lives of millions of children depend on this medicinal sachet preparation. If global food markets seem able to absorb an additional 16% cost, then this is the life of the severely undernourished child who at the end of the supply chain is at risk from this increase. However, for this child, the risks are unacceptable,” he added Kathryn Russell.

Extreme wasting is characterized by extreme thinness compared to height due to a weakened immune system, and is the most urgent, visible and fatal form of malnutrition. Worldwide, at least 13.6 million children under the age of five suffer from this disease, which is responsible for a fifth of deaths in this age group.

South Asia Severe wasting remains a ‘focal point’, with approximately 1 in 22 children affected, a rate three times higher than that observed in sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere in the world, severe wasting also reaches historically high rates in various countries. in Afghanistan, For example, 1.1 million children are at risk of severe wasting this year, double what they were in 2018. In the drought-stricken Horn of Africa region, The number of severely wasted children could rise rapidly from 1.7 million to 2 million, while a 26% increase is expected in the Sahel region compared to 2018.

The Children’s SOS report also highlights that some relatively stable countries, such as Uganda, have seen a 40% or more increase in cases of child wasting since 2016. This situation is attributed to the exacerbation of poverty and food insecurity for families, which affects the quality and frequency of meals for children and pregnant women. In addition, climate-related shocks such as cycles of severe droughts and problems with access to safe water supplies and sanitation services contribute to the increase in the number of cases.

Nothing can justify a child being severely wasted

The report also warned of the severe underfunding resulting from wasting, With a sharp decline expected in the coming years and little hope of a return to pre-pandemic levels before 2028. According to the new analysis made for this brief, global spending on wasting represents just 2.8% of the official development assistance (ODA) budget allocated to the health sector in general and 0.2% of the total amount of official development assistance.

Moreover, So that every child with severe wasting can benefit from life-saving treatment, UNICEF requests the following:

  • Governments increase aid to wasting by at least 59% Compared to 2019 official development assistance levels, aiming to reach all children in need of treatment in 23 high-burden countries;
  • Countries include addressing child wasting in funding plans in health and long-term development, so that all children – even those not in a humanitarian crisis – can benefit from treatment programmes;
  • Budget allocations to address the global food crisis routinely include funds for therapeutic foods meet the immediate needs of children with severe wasting;
  • Donors and civil society organizations raise wasting control as a funding priority To ensure the diversification, expansion and strength of the financial support system.

“Nothing can justify a child being severely wasted – especially since we have the potential to prevent this condition. We have little time left to revitalize global action to prevent, detect and treat malnutrition, and we absolutely must use it before the situation takes on more serious proportions” , is over Kathryn Russell.

Access multimedia content here

Notes to editors :

About ready-to-use therapeutic foods
Packaged in individual sachets, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods come in the form of an energy paste rich in fats and micronutrients, prepared with peanuts, sugar, oil and powdered milk. The leading player in the ready-to-use therapeutic food market on a global scale, UNICEF purchases and distributes 75% to 80% of global production and obtains supplies from approximately two dozen plants around the world.

About ODA
Official development assistance (ODA) is assistance provided by governments for the express purpose of promoting economic development and improving living conditions in developing countries. Adopted by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1969 as a standard for foreign aid, official development assistance remains the main source of development aid financing based on collected and processed statistics published by the OECD.

Leave a Comment