Catastrophic Levels Of Severe Wasting

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Conflict and climate shocks are increasing severe wasting, where the risk of child mortality is already highest. Timely and feasible investments would dramatically reduce child deaths, yet aid for wasting remains woefully low.

KHARTOUM May 23: The number of children with severe wasting was rising even before war in Ukraine threatened to plunge the world deeper into a spiralling global food crisis – and it’s getting worse, UNICEF warned in a new Child Alert.

Released today, Severe wasting: An overlooked child survival emergency shows that in spite of rising levels of severe wasting in children and rising costs for life-saving treatment, global financing to save the lives of children suffering from wasting is also under threat.

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Currently, at least 10 million severely wasted children – or 2 in 3 – do not have access to the most effective treatment for wasting, ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF).

UNICEF warns that a combination of global shocks to food security worldwide – led by the war in Ukraine, economies struggling with pandemic recovery, and persistent drought conditions in some countries due to climate change – is creating conditions for a significant increase in global levels of severe wasting.

Meanwhile, the price of ready-to-use therapeutic food is projected to increase by up to 16 per cent over the next six months due to a sharp rise in the cost of raw ingredients. This could leave up to 600,000 additional children without access to life-saving treatment at current spending levels. Shipping and delivery costs are also expected to remain high.

Severe wasting – where children are too thin for their height resulting in weakened immune systems – is the most immediate, visible and life-threatening form of malnutrition. Worldwide, at least 13.6 million children under five suffer from severe wasting, resulting in 1 in 5 deaths among this age group.

Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director: “We can’t end global hunger overnight, but we can stop the most desperate children from dying from severe wasting right now. And together, we can reach every child – no matter who they are or where they live – with the essential nutrition they desperately need to survive and thrive.”

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