The world is witnessing a catastrophic explosion in the number of severe malnutrition among children

New York / Paris, May 17, 2022 – The number of children suffering from serious waste was already rising before the war in Ukraine threatened to throw the world into an even deeper food crisis – and the situation is getting worse, warns UNICEF in a new SOS Children’s report.

Published today, information note Severe waste: A muted emergency that threatens children’s survival shows that in view of the increasing incidence of serious childhood waste and rising treatment costs for this condition, the global funding needed to save the lives of the children affected is also at stake.

“Before the war in Ukraine affected global food security, families were already struggling to feed their children due to conflict, climate shock and COVID-19,” said Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF. “The world is now on the brink of an explosion in preventable child deaths and child waste.”

Access to ready-to-use therapeutic foods is essential

At present, at least 10 million severely wasted children – two thirds – do not have access to ready-to-use therapeutic foods, which constitutes the most effective treatment against this pathology. According to UNICEF, the combined effects of global shocks that are undermining 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 several countries due to climate change – are creating conditions that promote a significant increase in the number of serious spills worldwide.

The price of ready-to-use therapeutic foods is expected to rise by up to 16% over the next six months due to rising raw material costs. A situation that risks depriving up to 600,000 additional children of this vital treatment, given the current level of funding. Shipping and distribution costs, which are also high, are also not expected to fall.

“Every year, millions of children’s lives depend on this therapeutic letter preparation. If global food markets appear to be able to absorb an additional 16% of costs, it is the life of a severely malnourished child who is exposed at the end of the supply chain. such an increase. But for this child, the effort is unacceptable, ” added Katherine Russell.

Characterized by extreme underweight in relation to height due to a weakened immune system, severe shrinkage is the most immediate, visible and fatal form of malnutrition. Worldwide, at least 13.6 million children under the age of 5 suffer from this disease, which is responsible for one-fifth of the deaths in this age group.

South Asia remains the “epicenter” of severe wastage, affecting approximately 1 in 22 children, at a rate three times higher than that observed in sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere in the world, severe waste also reaches historically high rates in various countries. In Afghanistan, for example, 1.1 million children are at risk of serious waste this year, almost double that of 2018. In the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, the number of severely wasted children could quickly rise from 1.7 million to 2 million, while an increase of 26% is expected in the Sahel compared to 2018.

The SOS Children report also highlights that some relatively stable countries, such as Uganda, have seen an increase of 40% or more in cases of childhood waste since 2016. This situation is explained by the worsening of poverty and food insecurity in families, which has the effect of affecting the quality and frequency of meals for children and pregnant women. In addition, climate-related shocks such as cycles of intense drought and problems with access to secure water supply and sanitation services are helping to increase the number of cases.

Nothing can justify a child suffering from severe wasting

The report also warns of the violent underfunding of waste, with a sharp decline expected in the coming years with little hope of a return to pre-pandemic levels before 2028. According to a new analysis made for this map, global spending on waste represents almost 2.8% of the budget for official development assistance ( ODA) devoted to the health sector in general and 0.2% of the total amount of ODA.

As well, so that any child suffering from severe shrinkage can benefit from life-saving treatment, UNICEF requests that:

  • Governments increase aid for waste by at least 59% towards 2019 ODA levels in order to reach all children in need of treatment in 23 countries with high burdens;
  • Countries include treatment of childhood waste in funding plans in long-term health and development, so that all children – including those not in humanitarian crisis – can benefit from treatment programs;
  • Budget allocations to deal with the global food crisis routinely include funds dedicated to therapeutic foods meet the immediate needs of children suffering from severe waste;
  • Donors and civil society organizations raise the fight against waste as a funding priority to ensure the diversification, expansion and strength of the economic support ecosystem.

“Nothing can justify a child suffering from severe wasting – especially since we have the opportunity to prevent this pathology. We have very little time left to revive global efforts to prevent, detect and treat malnutrition, and we must definitely use it before the situation takes on even more dramatic proportions. ” finished Katherine Russell.

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Notes to editors :

About ready-to-use therapeutic foods
Packed in individual bags, ready-to-use therapeutic foods come in the form of an energy paste rich in lipids and micronutrients, prepared with peanuts, sugar, oil and milk powder. UNICEF is the first player in the market for ready-to-use therapeutic foods globally, buying and distributing 75% to 80% of the world’s production and receiving supplies from around twenty producers around the world.

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

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