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Over half a billion dollars pledged to tackle child malnutrition crisis, says UNICEF

Gift is being fed Plumpy'Nut by his father Yosa Augustino after being treated for malnutrition in Juba, South Sudan. (UNICEF/UN0232197/Njiokiktjien VII Photo)

Governments, philanthropies, and private donors have pledged more than USD $500 million since July in response to the deepening child malnutrition crisis – and almost two thirds of that is directly per cent of supporting the work of global children’s charity UNICEF.

Roughly US$280 million of the over half billion raised was recently pledged at The Child Malnutrition Crisis: Pledging to Save Lives – a high-level event co-hosted by UNICEF, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), and the government of Senegal at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.

The governments of Canada, Ireland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; and the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the Eleanor Crook Foundation, the Greta Thunberg Foundation, Humanitarian Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and King Philanthropies came together at the high-level event during the 77th annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to address the growing food crisis.

The commitments were made as climate-driven drought, conflict, and rising food prices continue to drive up emergency levels of severe wasting in young children worldwide. In 15 countries hardest hit, including in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, a child is being pushed into severe malnutrition every minute, according to a recent analysis by UNICEF.

“An escalating malnutrition crisis is pushing millions of children to the brink of starvation – and unless we do more, that crisis will become a catastrophe,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “UNICEF is immensely grateful for the pledges we have received, but we need further unrestricted funding to reach children before it is too late.

We cannot stand by and let children die – not when we know how to prevent, detect, and treat severe wasting

These latest commitments build upon pledges made in July, when USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced an unprecedented contribution of US$200 million to UNICEF to detect and treat severe child wasting. At that time, an additional US$50 million was pledged by private philanthropies including Philanthropist and Chair of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) Sir Chris Hohn, the Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF), The CRI Foundation, and The ELMA Relief Foundation, to address the malnutrition crisis.

Samantha Power, USAID Administrator, said: “The majority of children facing severe malnutrition – nearly two-thirds of children who need treatment – live in places not currently in crisis, places that don’t normally receive humanitarian aid. We are working to change that, to recognise that treatment for severe malnutrition is not solely a humanitarian need, but in some places, a development requirement, too.”

‘UNICEF has scaled up its efforts in 15 countries’

Severe wasting – which makes children dangerously thin – is the most visible and lethal form of undernutrition. Weakened immune systems increase the risk of death among children under 5 by up to 11 times compared to well-nourished children.

In response, UNICEF has scaled up its efforts in 15 countries most affected by the malnutrition crisis. Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen are included in an Acceleration Plan calling for US$1.2 billion to help avert a rise in child deaths and mitigate the long-term damage of severe wasting.

The pledges to UNICEF will help provide services for the early prevention, detection and treatment of child wasting, and expand access to life-saving ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and other essential nutritious commodities needed during crises.

During today’s event, UNICEF and partners also launched an expansion of the Child Nutrition Fund, a long-term multi-partner financing mechanism to support the early prevention, detection and treatment of child wasting. By working with governments to consolidate and strategically allocate financial resources, the Child Nutrition Fund aims to accelerate global progress and end the cycle of severe child wasting.

Chris Hohn, Co-founder and chair of CIFF, said: “We are witnessing an unprecedented child malnutrition crisis. The fact that many millions of children have to experience severe malnutrition in their first few years of life is unacceptable.

‘Together we must do more – and do it urgently’

“We already know many of the solutions for prevention, early detection and treatment of child wasting but we need to do more to ensure these solutions are scaled. This requires sustainable long-term and coordinated funding. The early success of the Child Nutrition Fund is incredibly encouraging and its expansion into becoming the largest centralised response to combat child wasting at scale is exactly what’s needed. I am pleased to announce the CIFF intends to allocate an additional $40 million for addressing child wasting.”

Harjit S Saijan, Canada’s Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency, said: “Acute malnutrition can be prevented, and the effects mitigated, if detected and treated early. Together we can put a stop to this – but we must act now. Working alongside allies like USAID and with partners like UNICEF, the World Food Programme and Nutrition International, Canada continues to be part of the solution.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said:  “The world has reached a crossroads where climate change, continuous conflict in many regions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine have converged to deepen and accelerate global food and nutrition insecurity. Together we must do more – and do it urgently. Today Ireland was pleased to announce a pledge of €50 million over three years towards accelerating the global response for the prevention, early detection, and treatment of child wasting.This will be additional to Ireland’s commitment made at the 2021 Nutrition for Growth Summit of €800 million over five years. We look forward to working closely with USAID, UNICEF and other global partners on this critical work in the months and years ahead.”

Liesje Schreinemacher, the Netherlands’ Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, said:
“To ease the current food and nutrition crisis, we must all increase our efforts. That’s why the Kingdom of the Netherlands invests in a new partnership with UNICEF to focus on the prevention of undernutrition among children, women and adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Original text courtesy of UNICEF

Author: Simon Weedy

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