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UNICEF warns of a ‘spiraling global food crisis’

APTOPIX India Child Malnutrition
Posted at 11:31 AM, May 17, 2022

UNICEF said that a “spiraling global food crisis” could add to the number of children who suffer from severe wasting.

The warning from UNICEF this week said there are rising levels of severe wasting in children amid rising costs for life-saving treatment. UNICEF said 10 million children suffering from severe wasting do not have access to ready-to-use therapeutic food. Ready-to-use therapeutic food is considered the most effective treatment for severe wasting.

Ready-to-use therapeutic food is becoming more expensive globally, UNICEF reported. It’s projected to cost 16% more over the next six months due to rising costs of raw food. The increased cost could cause 600,000 additional children globally to suffer, UNICEF warns.

Severe wasting is a condition among children who are too thin for their height resulting in weakened immune systems. 

“Even before the war in Ukraine placed a strain on food security worldwide, conflict, climate shocks and COVID-19 were already wreaking havoc on families’ ability to feed their children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “The world is rapidly becoming a virtual tinderbox of preventable child deaths and child suffering from wasting.”

UNICEF estimates that 13.6 million children under age 5 suffer from severe wasting. The condition is the cause of death in one out of five children in this age group. 

“For millions of children every year, these sachets of therapeutic paste are the difference between life and death. A 16 percent price increase may sound manageable in the context of global food markets, but at the end of that supply chain is a desperately malnourished child, for whom the stakes are not manageable at all,” said Russell.

UNICEF offered the following solutions:

  • Governments to increase wasting aid by at least 59 percent above 2019 ODA levels to help reach to help reach all children in need of treatment in 23 high burden countries 
  • Countries to include treatment for child wasting under health and long-term development funding schemes so that all children can benefit from treatment programs, not just those in humanitarian crisis settings 
  • Ensure that budget allocations to address the global hunger crisis include specific allocations for therapeutic food interventions to address the immediate needs of children suffering from severe wasting 
  • Donors and civil society organizations to prioritize funding for wasting to ensure a diverse, growing and a healthy ecosystem of donor support