The United Nations agencies have raised the alarm on the need for urgent action to protect the most vulnerable children in the 15 countries hardest hit by an unprecedented food and nutrition crisis.
The affected countries are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
In this regard, five UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) – called for accelerated progress on the global action plan on child wasting.
According to the UN agencies conflict, climate shocks, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, and rising costs of living were leaving increasing numbers of children acutely malnourished while key health, nutrition and other life-saving services are becoming less accessible.
The UN bodies said currently more than 30 million children in the 15 worst-affected countries suffer from wasting – or acute malnutrition – and eight million of these children are severely wasted, the deadliest form of undernutrition.
They described the situation as a major threat to children’s lives and to their long-term health and development, the impacts of which are felt by individuals, their communities and their countries. According to the UN group, the plan was to prevent, detect and treat acute malnutrition among children in the worst-affected countries.
A joint statement issued by Executive Director, UNICEF, Catherine Russell; Executive Director, WFP, David Beasley and WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that: ” More than 30 million children are acutely malnourished across the 15 worst-affected countries.”
They said the world must act together now to save the situation.
“It is critical that we collaborate to strengthen social safety nets and food assistance to ensure Specialised Nutritious Foods are available to women and children who need them the most.”
The UN agencies said that the global action plan will focus on the need for a multi-sectoral approach and highlights priority actions across maternal and child nutrition through the food, health, water and sanitation, and social protection systems.
In response to increasing needs, the agencies identified five priority actions that will be effective in addressing acute malnutrition in countries affected by conflict and natural disasters and in humanitarian emergencies.
“Scaling up these actions as a coordinated package will be critical for preventing and treating acute malnutrition in children, and averting a tragic loss of life,” they said.
The UN agencies also said that they are seeking for decisive and timely action to prevent this crisis from becoming a tragedy for the world’s most vulnerable children.
“All agencies urge for greater investment in support of a coordinated UN response that will meet the unprecedented needs of this growing crisis, before it is too late”.
Director-General of the FAO, Qu Dongyu, said: This situation is likely to deteriorate even further in 2023,” said “We must ensure availability, affordability and accessibility of healthy diets for young children, girls, and pregnant and lactating women. We need urgent action now to save lives, and to tackle the root causes of acute malnutrition, working together across all sectors.”
In the same vein, High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) , Filippo Grandi said the UN system is responding as one to the crisis adding that the UN Global Action Plan on Child Wasting is a joint effort to prevent, detect and treat wasting globally.