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Decisive and timely action needed to prevent malnutrition crisis: UN Agencies

The United Nations Agencies have urged the global community to urgently address the issue of acute malnutrition, threatening the lives of millions of children across the globe propelled by conflict, climate shocks, the ongoing impacts of COVID19, and rising costs of living.

Noting that more than 30 million children in the 15 worst-affected countries are currently suffering from wasting or acute malnutrition and that eight million of whom are severely wasted the agencies say that malnutrition is a major threat to lives and long-term health and development of children, the effects of which are felt by individuals, communities, and countries.

The UN agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are calling for accelerated progress on the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting.

Under the plan, the UN  agencies have outlined five action points to address the mounting needs, aiming to reduce wasting prevalence to less than 5% by the year 2025 and further reduce wasting prevalence to less than 3% by the year 2030, the agencies said.

With needs mounting, the UN agencies have outlined five specific actions for effectively addressing acute malnutrition in countries affected by conflict and natural disasters and in humanitarian emergencies.

Warning that the situation is likely to deteriorate even further in 2023, FAO Director, QU Dongyu, said, “We must ensure availability, affordability and accessibility of healthy diets for young children, girls, and pregnant and lactating women.”

“We need urgent action now to save lives and to tackle the root causes of acute malnutrition, working together across all sectors,” he added.

Pointing out that the cascading crises are leaving millions of children wasted and have made it harder for them to access key services, the Executive Director of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, said, “Wasting is painful for the child, and in severe cases, can lead to death or permanent damage to children’s growth and development.”

“We can and must turn this nutrition crisis around through proven solutions to prevent, detect, and treat child wasting early,” she added.

Calling for more global cooperation, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasle, said, “More than 30 million children are acutely malnourished across the 15 worst-affected countries, so we must act now, and we must act together.”

“It is critical that we collaborate to strengthen social safety nets and food assistance to ensure specialised nutritious foods are available to women and children who need them the most,” he added.

“The global food crisis is also a health crisis, and a vicious cycle: malnutrition leads to disease, and disease leads to malnutrition,” Director-General of  the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.”

“Urgent support is needed now in the hardest hit countries to protect children’s lives and health, including ensuring critical access to healthy foods and nutrition services, especially for women and children,” he added.

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