The war in Ukraine, along with other global shocks to food security, is creating conditions for a significant increase in life-threatening malnutrition for children, according to UNICEF.
The United Nations agency said in a statement that soaring food prices caused by the war is set to drive up the cost of “life-saving” therapeutic food treatment. It added that severe malnutrition in children could go to “catastrophic levels.”
Around 13.6 million children under five suffer from severe wasting — a condition where children are too thin for their height, leading to weak immune systems, the UN agency said in a press release.
The most effective treatment is a ready-to-use therapeutic food, but the price of that is expected to increase by up to 16% in the next six months due to a sharp rise in the cost of ingredients.
“For millions of children every year, these sachets of therapeutic paste are the difference between life and death,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
Around 10 million severely wasted children do not have access to the treatment, and another 600,000 children may lose access at current spending levels, Unicef added.
Before the war in Ukraine began, conflict, climate change and Covid were already making it difficult for families to feed their children, said Russell.
“The world is rapidly becoming a virtual tinderbox of preventable child deaths and child suffering,” she said.
“There is precious little time to reignite a global effort to prevent, detect and treat malnutrition before a bad situation gets much, much worse,” she added.
— Abigail Ng