Five United Nations’ agencies have called for urgent action to protect the most vulnerable children in 15 countries, worst hit by an unprecedented food and nutrition crisis.
The call was made in a statement issued by five UN agencies.
According to the statement, conflicts, climate shocks, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and rising costs of living are leaving increasing numbers of children acutely malnourished.
“This is happening when key health nutrition and other life-saving services are becoming less accessible.
“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 under- nutrition.
“This is 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,” it said.
It said the five UN agencies are: Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
The statement said that they called for accelerated progress on the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting.
“This is aimed to prevent, detect and treat acute malnutrition among children in the worst-affected countries, which are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Others are Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
It said that the Global Action Plan addressed the need for a multi-sectoral approach and highlighted priority actions across maternal and child nutrition through the food, health, water and sanitation, and social protection systems.
According to the statement, in response to increasing needs, the UN 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.
It said 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.
“The UN agencies call for decisive and timely action to prevent this crisis from becoming a tragedy for the world’s most vulnerable children,” it said.
Director-General of the FAO, Mr. QU Dongyu, said that the situation would likely deteriorate even further in 2023.
“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,” Qu said.
High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, said that the UN system was responding as one to the crisis.
Grandi said at UNHCR they are working hard to improve analysis and targeting to ensure that they reach children who are most at risk, including internally-displaced and refugee populations.
The Executive Director of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, said cascading crises are leaving millions of children wasted and have made it harder for them to access key services.
The Executive Director of WFP, David Beasley, said more than 30 million children are acutely malnourished across the 15 worst-affected countries, so they must act now and must act together.
Beasley said it is critical that they collaborate to strengthen social safety nets and food assistance to ensure that Specialised Nutritious Foods are available to women and children who need them the most.
The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that “the global food crisis is also a health crisis, and a vicious cycle, malnutrition leads to disease, and disease leads to malnutrition,”
He said 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.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja