UNICEF says Nigeria, Ethiopia, others affected by severe Wasting

Data from a new report released by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has revealed that Nigeria is among the top 10 countries affected by severe wasting in children below five years.

According to UNICEF data, India accounts for the greatest number of children suffering from severe wasting with 5,772,472 while Nigeria with 482,590 cases comes fourth. Indonesia and Pakistan came before Nigeria coming second and third respectively.

Other countries are Bangladesh, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Philippines, Niger and South Africa.

According to the report by UNICEF, about one in five deaths among children under five is attributed to wasting which is caused by a lack of nutritious food and repeated bouts of diseases such as diarrhoea, measles and malaria, which in turn compromise a child’s immunity.

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But UNICEF, the agency in charge of providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children, noted that wasting is only rising in countries facing humanitarian crises. In Uganda for instance, wasting has risen by 60 per cent since 2016, UNICEF noted

Wasting refers to a child who is too thin for his or her height. It is the result of recent rapid weight loss or the failure to gain weight. A child who is moderately or severely wasted has an increased risk of death, but treatment is possible, UNICEF explained.

The report partly reads, “Unlike famine or starvation, relatively few people have heard of severe wasting – also known as severe acute malnutrition – even though it affects around 13.6 million children globally under the age of 5.

“Ongoing conflicts and climate-related emergencies meant that this number was already likely to grow. But with so many countries heavily reliant on exports from Ukraine and Russia, the war in Ukraine is threatening to plunge the world even deeper into a food crisis. 

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“Meanwhile, the price of life-saving ready-to-use therapeutic food is projected to soar in the coming months, placing even more children’s lives at risk”

The agency noted that “the reality is that we already have the knowledge and tools to save hundreds of thousands of lives each year from this excruciatingly painful condition. Ending global hunger and malnutrition won’t happen overnight. But there is plenty we can do right now to stop children dying from severe wasting.”

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