Global hunger crisis pushing one child into severe malnutrition every minute in 15 crisis-hit countries

Ahead of G7 summit, UNICEF appeals for US$1.2 billion from global donors to meet urgent needs of 8 million children at risk of death from severe wasting

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Global hunger crisis pushing one child into severe malnutrition every minute in 15 crisis-hit countries

LONDON, 23 June 2022 Almost 8 million children under 5 in 15 crisis-hit countries are at risk of death from severe wasting unless they receive immediate therapeutic food and care – with the number rising by the minute, UNICEF warned today as world leaders prepare to meet at the G7 summit.

Since the start of the year, the escalating global food crisis has forced an additional 260,000 children – or one child every 60 seconds – to suffer from severe wasting in 15 countries bearing the brunt of the crisis, including in the Horn of Africa and the Central Sahel. This rise in severe wasting is in addition to existing levels of child undernutrition that UNICEF warned amounted to a ‘virtual tinderbox’ last month.

East African countries are dependent on Ukraine and Russia for 90% of grain imports and are suffering the worst drought in 40 years because of climate change” said Amelia Christie, Head of International Policy and Advocacy for The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK). “There are more children in Somalia needing treatment for severe malnutrition right now than there were at the time of the 2011 famine. But early warning calls are yet to trigger the funding needed to prevent this happening again, so we worry famine is just around the corner”.

Soaring food prices driven by the war in Ukraine, persistent drought due to climate change in some countries, at times combined with conflict, and the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19 continue to drive up children’s food and nutrition insecurity worldwide, resulting in catastrophic levels of severe malnutrition in children under 5. In response, UNICEF is scaling up its efforts in 15 most affected countries. Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen will be included in an acceleration plan to help avert an explosion of child deaths and mitigate the long-term damage of severe wasting.

“Early action saves lives. In 2017, early warning systems triggered a dedicated and generous response which successfully prevented famine. But this year, as famine looms just around the corner in East Africa, the UK Government has provided just 9% of the amount it funded for the successful famine prevention in 2017.[1]

“In February 2022, the UK Government made a generous commitment to respond to the global malnutrition crisis. This was before the Ukraine war and worst drought in 40 years was threatening children’s futures. 

The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) urges the UK Government to deliver on its promise and urgently deploy part of its £1.5 billion pledge on nutrition to ensure UK Aid has an immediate and lifesaving effect on children battling life-threatening severe malnutrition right now” continued Christie.

Meanwhile, the price of ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat severe wasting has soared by 16 per cent in recent weeks due to a sharp rise in the cost of raw ingredients, leaving up to 600,000 additional children without access to life-saving treatment and at risk of death.

As leaders prepare to meet at the G7 summit, UNICEF is calling for US$ 1.2 billion from global donors to:

  • Deliver an essential package of nutrition services and care to avert what could be millions of child deaths in 15 highest burden countries, including prevention programmes to protect maternal and child nutrition among pregnant women and young children, early detection and treatment programmes for children with severe wasting, and the procurement, and distribution of ready-to-use therapeutic food.
  • Prioritise the prevention and treatment of severe wasting in all global food crisis response plans by ensuring budget allocations include preventive nutrition interventions as well as therapeutic food to address the immediate needs of children suffering from severe wasting.


Notes to Editors

The rate of increase in child wasting is based on publicly available estimates for January and June 2022 as found in National Nutrition Cluster estimates (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and DRC), Integrated Phase Classification Acute Malnutrition Analyses (Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Madagascar and Haiti), Humanitarian Appeals for Children (Ethiopia, Afghanistan), and Humanitarian Needs Overviews (Sudan). The total number of children projected to suffer from severe wasting in January and June 2022 was estimated to be 7,674,098 and 7,934,357 respectively, an increase of 260,259 additional children.

As a result of the global food crisis, UNICEF also estimates that the cost of treatment of child wasting has already increased by an estimated 16 per cent, driven largely by increases in the price of essential nutrition commodities and their raw materials.

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For further information, please contact:

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, [email protected]

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The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work for children. We also promote and protect children’s rights in the UK and internationally. We are a UK charity, entirely funded by supporters.

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[1] In 2017, the UK provided £861 million as part of the global response which helped avert widespread famine. In 2022 UK has provided £71 million.