The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appealed for $1.2 billion to meet urgent needs of eight million children at risk of death from severe wasting in mainly African countries.
According to UNICEF, almost eight million children under five in 15 crisis-hit countries are at risk of death from severe wasting unless they receive immediate therapeutic food and care – with the number rising by the minute.
The 15 crisis-hit countries are mainly African nations, such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, but also Afghanistan and Haiti.
The UN agency emphasised that the number of desperately hungry children suffering from severe wasting has continued to grow in the countries where it has raised the alarm.
The UN said between January and June, that number increased by well over 250,000, from 7.67 million to 7.93 million children.
This came as the price of ready-to-use food to treat severe wasting soared by 16 per cent in recent weeks, owing to a sharp rise in the cost of raw ingredients.
UNICEF warned that the price spike left up to 600,000 additional children “without access to life-saving treatment and at risk of death.”
“We are now seeing the tinderbox of conditions for extreme levels of child wasting begin to catch fire,” said UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell. “Food aid is critical, but we cannot save starving children with bags of wheat. We need to reach these children now with therapeutic treatment before it is too late.”
According to the UN agency, because of the global hunger crisis, every single minute, one child is pushed into life-threatening, severe malnutrition.
Severe wasting – where children are too thin for their height – is the most visible and lethal form of undernutrition. Weakened immune systems increase the risk of death among children under five by up to 11 times, compared to well-nourished children.
Within the 15 countries highlighted as most at risk by UNICEF, an estimated 40 million children are severely nutrition insecure, meaning they are not receiving the bare minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop in early childhood.
Furthermore, 21 million children are severely food insecure, meaning they lack access to enough food to meet minimum food needs, leaving them at high risk of severe wasting.