The lingering effects of shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now rising food, feed, fertilizer and fuel prices, are deepening poverty and exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition for millions of people. The 15 most affected countries are home to 27 million children who are acutely food insecure and at high risk of wasting, a condition that puts them at risk of mortality and also affects their growth and development. It is estimated that eight million children currently suffer from severe wasting, with lasting effects throughout their lives.
Life-saving interventions exist, but unless the underlying issues of poverty and food insecurity that cause child wasting are addressed simultaneously, the potential for relapse and lasting effects is very real. The international community is responding with an increase in humanitarian and development assistance, which includes actions focused on child wasting prevention as part of this response – something that has not always been the case in the past. .
With the Global Action Plan against Child Wasting, commissioned by the UN Secretary-General in 2019, five UN agencies – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), High Commissioner United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) have come together to jointly respond through a multisystem approach that includes but goes beyond the immediate goal of treatment.
They committed to coordinate and concert their actions to ensure that households with children in vulnerable situations can access safe and nutritious food and the services needed to prevent wasting and ensure that recovered children do not fall back. in emaciation. This includes improving access to and quality of health services, safe drinking water, adequate year-round sanitation and hygiene, and timely social protection to fill gaps in health care. access to nutritious foods and services.
FAO has a key role to play in supporting households with children at risk and pregnant and lactating women and girls to prevent child wasting or to ensure there is no relapse for children under treatment. By including nutrition in emergency agricultural interventions, FAO will help countries build the resilience of the most vulnerable people and support household livelihoods, breaking the cycle of distress that underpins wasting. children.
We urgently need to complement lifesaving interventions with a prevention strategy that will prevent wasting of these recovered children and prevent future cases in communities and households most at risk. There is an urgent need to empower communities themselves to bridge the gap between short-term humanitarian aid and development activities focused on prevention. It is only by sustainably reducing acute food insecurity that we can prevent the scourge of child wasting in the longer term.
FAO Director General