8 million children severely malnourished; UN agencies call for urgent action to protect the most vulnerable in 15 countries
United Nations agencies have called for urgent action to protect the most vulnerable children in 15 countries hit the hardest by an unprecedented food and nutrition crisis.
Conflict, climate shocks, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and rising living costs are leaving increasing numbers of children acutely malnourished. Meanwhile, critical health, nutrition and other life-saving services are becoming less accessible, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press brief January 12, 2023.
Read more: Child malnutrition in India: A systemic failure
“Currently, more than 30 million children in the 15 worst-affected countries suffer from wasting — or acute malnutrition — and 8 million of these children are severely wasted, the deadliest form of undernutrition,” the global health body stated.
“The global food crisis is also a health crisis, and a vicious cycle: malnutrition leads to disease, and disease leads to malnutrition,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general WHO.
Urgent support is needed now in the hardest-hit countries to protect children’s lives and health, including ensuring critical access to healthy foods and nutrition services, especially for women and children.
Acute malnutrition is a major threat to children’s lives and their long-term health and development, the impacts of which are felt by individuals, their communities and their countries, the WHO added in the statement.
In response, five UN agencies subsuming WHO are calling for accelerated progress on the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting. These agencies are Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and WHO.
Read more: Nearly 1.5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition as Somalia drought worsens
The action plan aims to prevent, detect and treat acute malnutrition among children in the worst-affected countries: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
The agencies have called for decisive and timely action to prevent this crisis from becoming a tragedy for the world’s most vulnerable children. All agencies urged greater investment in support of a coordinated UN response that will meet the unprecedented needs of this growing crisis before it is too late.
“This situation is likely to deteriorate even further in 2023,” said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the FAO. “We need urgent action now to save lives and to tackle the root causes of acute malnutrition, working together across all sectors.”
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