The food crisis and malnutrition put 8 million children in danger of death worldwide

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The children most at risk live in 15 countries experiencing food shortages, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Yemen, but also the three Sahel countries hit by jihadist violence (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso) .

In these 15 countries currently affected by a crisis, almost 8 million children under the age of 5 are at risk of death from severe wasting if they do not receive immediate therapeutic food and care, insisted the UNICEF as the G7 prepares to meet.

All these countries need immediate food and medical aid, insists the organization, which stresses that the number of children concerned is growing minute by minute. Since the beginning of the year, the world food crisis has in fact added more than 260,000 children to the number of people suffering from severe malnutrition, or one child every 60 seconds.

This rise in cases of severe wasting comes on top of already skyrocketing child malnutrition rates, as reported by UNICEF last month.

Conditions conducive to ‘catastrophic explosion’ of wasting rates

“We now see that the conditions for the catastrophic explosion of child wasting rates are in place and that the situation is beginning to deteriorate,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement.

According to projections, severe wasting affected 7.9 million children in June 2022 against 7.6 million in January of the same year, or exactly 260,259 additional cases. “While food aid plays a crucial role, wheat does not save the lives of starving children. We need to get them therapeutic food now, before it’s too late,” Ms Russell added.

Among the issues involved are soaring food prices – a situation exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – persistent droughts in several countries due to climate change and the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.

In these 15 countries, UNICEF estimates that at least 40 million children are in a situation of severe nutritional insecurity, that is to say that they do not benefit from the minimum dietary diversity they need. to grow and develop during the first years of their lives. In addition, 21 million children are severely food insecure and therefore at high risk of severe wasting.

UNICEF calls for $1.2 billion aid package

Characterized by extreme thinness in relation to height, severe wasting is the most visible and deadliest form of malnutrition. Due to weakened immune systems, severely wasted children under 5 years of age are at up to 11 times the risk of death compared to well-nourished children.

The UNICEF alert comes as the price of therapeutic foods aimed at treating severe wasting has risen 16% in recent weeks due to soaring raw material costs. This risks depriving up to 600,000 more children of this life-saving treatment and putting their lives at risk.

In response, UNICEF is scaling up its interventions in the 15 most affected countries, namely Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic Congo, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad and Yemen. The organization has planned the implementation of an acceleration plan to try to prevent an explosion of child deaths and mitigate the long-term consequences of severe wasting.

In light of this worrying situation and ahead of the G7 summit, UNICEF is calling for a $1.2 billion aid package to meet the urgent needs of 8 million children whose survival is threatened by wasting strict. “The leaders present in Germany for the meeting of ministers of the seven most industrialized countries still have the possibility of acting to save the lives of these children, but time is running out. Waiting for a state of starvation to be declared is tantamount to letting children die,” concluded Catherine Russell.

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