Five United Nations agencies have called for urgent action to protect the most vulnerable children in the 15 countries hardest hit by an unprecedented food and nutrition crisis. The appeal was published in a joined statement Thursday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the UN agencies, currently, more than 30 million children in the 15 worst-affected countries suffer from wasting – or acute malnutrition – and 8 million of these children are severely wasted, the deadliest form of undernutrition. The worst-affected countries are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
While key health, nutrition and other life-saving services are becoming less accessible, conflict, climate shocks, rising costs of living, and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 are leaving increasing numbers of children acutely malnourished. Acute malnutrition 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.
In response, the five UN agencies are calling for accelerated progress on the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting. It aims to prevent, detect and treat acute malnutrition among children in the worst-affected countries. The plan addresses 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.
The UN agencies call 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.
Wasting or acute malnutrition is a form of undernutrition caused by a decrease in food consumption and/or illness that results in sudden weight loss or oedema. Children with acute malnutrition have low weight for height. They may also have nutritional oedema and other related pathological clinical signs.
Children with acute malnutrition have weakened immune systems and are at higher risk of dying from common childhood diseases. Child wasting – defined as low weight for height – is the most dangerous form of undernutrition. Severe wasting is the deadliest form, as severely wasted children are 12 times more likely to die than a well-nourished child.
The Global Action Plan on Child Wasting is a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Website: Global Action Plan on Child Wasting
Full text: Urgent action needed as acute malnutrition threatens the lives of millions of vulnerable children, joint press release by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO), published January 12, 2023