At least 1.5 million children are not receiving life-saving treatment for severe wasting in eastern and southern Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.
This number represents almost half of the approximately 3.6 million children with urgent needs, who are not reached in time to save their lives or prevent them from suffering permanent developmental damage.
For UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mohamed M. Fall, “nothing is more devastating than seeing children suffering from severe wasting when you know it could have been prevented and treated.”
Mr. Fall highlights “outstanding results and successes”, thanks to the support of donors and partners, but says that “the impacts of COVID19, climate change and conflict are creating the perfect storm where needs quickly exceed resources. “.
For him, “the time to act is now”.
Crises are piling up
Across the region, families face multiple crises, including increasing levels of food insecurity, economic deterioration, disease outbreaks, unprecedented cycles of floods and droughts, and conflict.
Millions of people have to reduce the quantity or quality of the food they eat to survive. In many cases, families are forced to do both.
For UNICEF, it is an imminent and preventable tragedy that can and must be avoided.
Prevention remains the best way to guarantee the survival of children, to avoid permanent cognitive and physical damage and to escape the permanent suffering resulting from childhood malnutrition.
With unfettered access and predictable funding, UNICEF is confident it can work with partners to save the lives of almost all children admitted with severe wasting.
The agency is requesting $255 million to scale up its emergency response in 2022.
InAngolawhere populations are facing the consequences of the worst drought recorded in 40 years, UNICEF and its partners succeeded in scaling up their intervention in the most affected provinces (Cuando Cubango, Benguela, Namibe, Huíla and Cunene), with around 40 % more children treated in 2021 compared to 2020.
InEthiopiathe country with the largest population of children in the region, the agency and its partners reached an estimated 500,000 severely wasted children in 2021, but many children in the war-torn north still need lifesaving support.
In four regions, families are struggling to survive as severe drought sets in after three consecutive failed rainy seasons. According to the latest data, more than 6.8 million people in drought-affected areas will need emergency humanitarian assistance by mid-2022, many of them children.
Insouth sudanaround 1.4 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, including more than 310,000 children suffering from severe wasting.
Last year, UNICEF and partners treated more than 240,000 children, but the situation remains urgent as floods have killed livestock, washed away food and fields and blocked humanitarian access.
InMadagascarwhere three years of consecutive droughts have created one of the worst food and nutrition insecurity crises in decades, UNICEF and partners helped last year avert a dreaded famine for many families in the south of the country .
UNICEF and partners have nearly doubled the number of children receiving treatment for severe wasting compared to 2020. This is estimated to have saved the lives of at least 55,000 children under five.
InSomalia, more than 255,000 children received treatment for severe wasting last year. As the country experiences one of the worst droughts on record and suffers from continued violence, 1.3 million children under five are at risk of wasting this year.
InKenya, at least 65,000 children received treatment services for severe wasting in 2021. Currently, an estimated 2.8 million people are food insecure, including 565,044 children who are wasted – 123,000 severely – and the situation is expected to deteriorate further.
Finally, inmozambique, insecurity continues to have a negative impact. Last year, some 38,000 children received treatment for severe wasting, up from 10,000 the previous year.