One in five deaths among children under the age of 5 attributed to severe wasting, which is also called as acute malnutrition. The numbers are bound to increase crisis if the governments do not initiate programmes to overcome the crisis and prioritize early prevention and treatment of child wasting.
In a report Child Alert-Severe Wasting, the UNICEF called on donors and governments to scale up treatment on a massive scale, provide multi-layer funding that will enable continuous services, and cover treatment for child wasting under health and long-term development funding.
In the foreword, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said: “ Most people have never heard of severe wasting, also known as ‘severe acute malnutrition. But it is one of the leading underlying causes of preventable deaths in young children. Conflicts and climate crises that destroy access to healthy diets are causing that number to rise. But even in fairly stable countries, child wasting has been on the rise by more than 40 per cent. For example, in Uganda, child wasting has increased 61 per cent since 2016.”
UNICEF also called on
• Donors to ensure that budget allocations to address the global hunger crisis and include specific allocations for therapeutic food interventions to address the immediate needs of children suffering from severe wasting.
• Governments to integrate wasting programmes as a central priority in national health systems and services and protect nutrition from budget cuts.
• All stakeholders to prioritize treatment of child wasting as an essential child survival intervention and prioritize resources where they will save the most lives – severely wasted children under age of two.
• Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) can save children with severe wasting. The total cost to treat a child with RUTF is about US$100. UNICEF is the largest provider of RUTF globally and the provider of first resort of RUTF for children affected by humanitarian crises
• UNICEF indicates that the average price of life-saving RUTF is projected to increase by up to 16 per cent over the next six months, which may reduce access to RUTF and put more children’s lives at risk. More immediate and flexible funding is essential to ensure a continuous pipeline of RUTF supplies to save children’s lives.
• Wasting cases are increasing in areas affected by conflict and climate shocks and the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, precisely where the risk of child mortality is already highest. Some countries have seen a 40 per cent or more increase in child wasting since 2016.
• Reaching virtually every child in need can be achieved with just US$300 million in additional funding – 0.1 per cent of total overseas development assistance (ODA) spent in a year.
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 IT IMPACT CHILDREN?
Severe wasting turns common childhood illnesses into killer disease. Children who are severely wasted succumb to those diseases because their bodies provide virtually no protection against 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.
HOW MANY CHILDREN AFFECTED?
Globally, at least 13.6 million children under the age of 5 suffer from severe wasting, which is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among children under the age of five, making it one of the top threats to child survival. A severely wasted child is up to 11 times more likely than a healthy child to die of common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide.