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Post at: Jul 22 2022

UNICEF Report ‘Child Alert: Severe Wasting’

Recent context

  • On 17 May 2022,UNICEF released a report as ‘Child Alert: Severe Wasting.
  • In this report UNICEF warns about ripe for a surge in the number of children with severe wasting, a life-threatening form of malnutrition.

Highlights of the report

  • The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic along with climate change and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are causing the ongoing global food crisis.
  • 6,00,000 or more children across the globe will most probably be missing out on essential treatments.
  • Globally, 1 in 5 deaths among children under the age of 5 is attributed to severe wasting.
  • The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger worldwide has more than doubled from 135 million in December 2019 to 275 million.
  • Global aid spent on wasting amounts to just 2.8 percent of development assistance in health, and just 0.2 percent of total development spending

Situation on Globe

  • The situation is particularly acute in the Horn of Africa — Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti — home to at least 1.7 million severely wasted children. 
  • In Afghanistan, a record 1.1 million children are projected to need lifesaving treatment for severe wasting this year.
  • More than 3.27 lakh young children below the age of 5 are affected by 'severe wasting' in Bangladesh.
  • In Nepal, child wasting has risen by 19 per cent since 2019.

What is severe wasting?

  • Wasting, defined as low weight-for-height, is the most visible and lethal type of malnutrition.
  • Severe wasting, also known as severe acute malnutrition, is its most deadly form.
  • It is caused by a lack of nutritious food and repeated bouts of diseases such as diarrhoea, measles and malaria, which compromise a child’s immunity.

How is it impacting children?

  • Children who are severely wasted succumb to those diseases because their bodies provide virtually no protection against the bacteria, virus or fungi that infect them.
  • They die because their digestive systems can no longer absorb nutrients. A severely wasted child is reduced to the most basic bodily functions. It takes all their energy just to keep breathing.

Measurements to be taken

  • Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) can save children with severe wasting. 
  • Expand reach through community health workers and their capacity to carry out this work should therefore be strengthened.
  • Prioritise the health of women and girls, we can boost general nutrition, reduce pregnancy complications and boost fetal growth.

Global instability has pushed the world to the brink of becoming a “virtual tinderbox” for “catastrophic” levels of severe malnutrition in children.UNICEF is calling for all stakeholders to prioritize treatment of child wasting as an essential child survival intervention and prioritize resources where they will save the most lives.


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