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1.5 million children lack life-saving treatment for severe wasting in eastern and southern Africa, warns UNICEF – Angola

By on January 21, 2022 0

Despite a positive trend in recent years, lack of funding and limited access continue to put children at critical risk in the region

NAIROBI, 21 January 2021 — At least 1.5 million children are not receiving life-saving treatment for severe wasting in eastern and southern Africa, UNICEF warns today. 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.

Despite gradually improving awareness of the treatment of wasting in the region, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with climate shocks and ongoing conflicts, continue to push children and families to the brink. In addition, ongoing funding shortfalls remain an obstacle to UNICEF’s humanitarian response.

“Nothing is more devastating than seeing children suffering from severe wasting when we know it could have been prevented and treated. Thanks to the support of our donors and partners, we have achieved outstanding results and successes; but the impacts of COVID19, climate change and conflict are creating a perfect storm where needs are rapidly outstripping resources, and now is the time to act,” said Mohamed M. Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for the Eastern and Southern Africa.

Currently, families in the region 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.

This is an impending nutritional tragedy that can and must be avoided. With unimpeded access and predictable funding to reach children in need, UNICEF and its partners can save the lives of nearly every child admitted for severe wasting in the region. 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.

  • In Angola, where people are facing the consequences of the worst drought recorded in 40 years, UNICEF and its partners managed to scale up their emergency nutrition intervention in the most affected provinces (Cuanza Sul, Benguela, Huambo, Namibe, Huíla and Cunene), with about 75% more children treated for severe wasting in 2021 compared to 2020.
  • In Ethiopia, the country with the largest child population in the region, UNICEF and partners reached approximately 500,000 severely wasted children in 2021. However, many children in northern Ethiopia still need a life support, and in four regions (Afar, Somali, SNNPR and South and East Oromia) 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.
  • In south sudan, where an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, including more than 310,000 children suffering from severe wasting, UNICEF and its partners provided care for more than 240,000 children the last year. The situation in the country remains urgent as floods, which in some areas have lasted nearly a year, have killed livestock, washed away food and fields, blocked humanitarian access at a time when funds are running low .
  • In Madagascar, where 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 southern 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 5.
  • In Somalia, more than 255,000 children received treatment for severe wasting in 2021, as the country still experiences one of the worst droughts on record – in addition to ongoing violence. An estimated 1.3 million children under 5 are at risk of wasting in 2022, including around 295,000 severe cases.
  • In Kenya, at least 65,000 children received treatment services for severe wasting in 2021. An estimated 2.8 million people are food insecure, with 565,044 wasted children and 123,000 severely wasted. The situation is expected to deteriorate further due to the cumulative effects of three consecutive failed planting and harvesting seasons and the death of livestock due to droughts.
  • In mozambique, insecurity continues to have a negative impact on child nutrition. In 2021, around 38,000 children received treatment for severe wasting, an increase of around 10,000 children compared to 2020. Additional funds are urgently needed to ensure that these services are maintained beyond beyond April of this year.

The situation in the region remains dire and any disruption to an already protracted humanitarian operation could further aggravate what is already a long-standing nutrition crisis.

UNICEF is requesting $255 million to scale up its emergency nutrition response in priority countries in Eastern and Southern Africa in 2022, and support children with adequate and life-saving nutrition services, including treatment for severe wasting .

Media contacts

Malene Kamp Jensen Regional Head of Communications UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Tel. : +254 797 048 529 Email: [email protected]

Ricardo Pires Communications Specialist UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Tel. : +32 468 468 477 Email: [email protected]