Unicef warning on acute malnutrition in kids – Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned that health facilities, in the aftermath of the devastating floods, are reporting alarming levels of acute malnutrition among children in the affected areas, and is calling for support from the international community to reach over seven million children, teenage girls and women in need of nutritious services.

While more than one in nine children under the age of five admitted to health care facilities in the flood-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan were found to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition, over a million people are in need of clean drinking water and over 6 million are in need of sanitation services, said The UN agency in a statement.

Unicef ​​also called for the integration of nutrition into government health delivery services and increased government funding allocations for nutrition in the long term. Of the more than 22,000 children screened by health workers since September this year at health facilities in flood-affected areas, more than 2,630 were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, or more than one in nine children, it said.

One in nine children admitted to health facilities in flood-affected areas of Sindh, Balochistan

Estimates based on the pre-existing prevalence of malnutrition in the latest National Nutrition Survey indicate that close to 1.6 million children may be suffering from severe acute malnutrition and in need of urgent treatment in the flood-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Malnourished pregnant women are also at risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies who will be malnourished.

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“We cannot raise this alarm loud enough,” said Unicef’s representative in Pakistan, Abdullah Fadil, adding: “We are facing a nutrition emergency that threatens the lives of millions of children. Without urgent action, we are heading for a catastrophic outcome that threatens children’s very development and survival. We are grateful for the global community’s support so far, but much more is needed to save children’s lives.”

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Even before the devastating floods, half of the children living in the now flood-affected districts already had stunted growth – an irreversible condition that stunts children’s growth, physical and cognitive development.

Likewise, more than 40 percent of the mothers suffered from anemia. Over 25 million children and women across Pakistan, including more than 7 million children and women in flood-affected areas, require immediate access to essential nutrition services.

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Together with the government, the World Food Program and other partners, Unicef ​​has established 271 outpatient therapeutic treatment centers for the prevention, detection and treatment of cases of severe acute malnutrition and other forms of malnutrition. The UN agency is also working to expand nutrition services through 73 mobile health teams in the 84 flood-affected districts, along with health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and protection services that are critical to saving children’s lives.

Unicef ​​has revised its appeal to $175.3 million, of which $35 million will go to life-saving nutrition services and $58 million to essential WASH services. Only 13 percent of the Children and Families Appeal in Pakistan has been funded.

Published in Dawn, October 23, 2022

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