By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Soaring food prices caused by war in Ukraine, persistent drought due to climate change in some countries, and conflicts have been identified as the drivers of death from severe wasting that has hit children in many countries.
Also worsening the hunger crisis is the ongoing economic impact of Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which has continued to drive up children’s food and nutrition insecurity worldwide.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which unfolded the above information stressed that wasting has resulted in catastrophic levels of severe malnutrition in under-5 children.
According to UNICEF, almost eight million children under five years in 15 crisis-hit countries are at risk of death from severe wasting.
The UN organ provided the information in a news statement titled, “Global Hunger Crisis Pushing One Child into Severe Malnutrition Every Minute in 15 Countries Ahead of G7 Summit,” which was issued on 23rd June 2022.
“Almost 8 million children under 5 in 15 crisis-hit countries are at risk of death from severe wasting unless they receive immediate therapeutic food and care – with the number rising by the minute,” UNICEF warned as world leaders prepared to meet at the G7 summit.
The international authority on children’s well-being pointed out that since the start of the year, the escalating global food crisis has forced an additional 260,000 children – or one child every 60 seconds – to suffer from severe wasting in 15 countries bearing the brunt of the crisis.
Countries that are bearing the brunt of the malnutrition crisis include the Horn of Africa and the Central Sahel, UNICEF noted.
It added that this rise in severe wasting is in addition to existing levels of child undernutrition that UNICEF warned amounted to a ‘virtual tinderbox’ last month.
“We are now seeing the tinderbox of conditions for extreme levels of child wasting begin to catch fire,” UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, said. “Food aid is critical, but we cannot save starving children with bags of wheat. We need to reach these children now with therapeutic treatment before it is too late.”
In response to the need for solution, UNICEF disclosed that it is scaling up its efforts in 15 most affected countries.
The countries where it is scaling up efforts are: Afghanistanaso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan.
“Yemen will be included in an acceleration plan to help avert an explosion of child deaths and mitigate the long-term damage of severe wasting,” UNICEF emphasized.
“Severe wasting – where children are too thin for their height – is the most visible and lethal form of undernutrition. Weakened immune systems increase the risk of death among children under 5 by up to 11 times compared to well-nourished children,” UNICEF said.
It said that within the 15 countries, it has estimated that at least 40 million children are severely nutrition insecure, meaning they are not receiving the bare minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop in early childhood.
UNICEF declared, “Further, 21 million children are severely food insecure, meaning they lack access to enough food to meet minimum food needs, leaving them at high risk of severe wasting.
“Meanwhile, the price of ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat severe wasting has soared by 16 per cent in recent weeks due to a sharp rise in the cost of raw ingredients, leaving up to 600,000 additional children without access to life-saving treatment and at risk of death.