The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has raised concerns over severe malnutrition in children, especially those under the age of five, in the coming months following looming hunger.
Unicef’s concern comes against the background of President Peter Mutharika’s appeal to development partners, local and international well-wishers for assistance in mobilising resources worth K83.4 billion to feed 2.8 million Malawians facing starvation.
In a statement released yesterday, Unicef country representative Mahimbo Mdoe said in a country where almost half of the children are already undernourished, the UN agency is concerned for the health and survival of the nation’s youngest citizens.
“We already have a situation in Malawi where too many young children die from severe malnutrition and related infections.
“Our fear is that with the current food insecurity, and the reduction in meal frequency that is likely to happen, children will be further at risk from both severe acute malnutrition, and common childhood diseases, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. All are exacerbated by a child’s malnourished status, and can be fatal,” he said.
Unicef says in the statement that severe acute malnutrition is life threatening if not treated and that malnutrition rehabilitation centres in Malawi are already recording high death rates due to late admission and severe infections.
The statement says these children can be saved if early screening and referral takes place and quality treatment and feeding in line with protocols occur in the treatment centre.
Said Mdoe: “Unicef is greatly concerned about this situation combined with the current food crisis and working with our government partners, we have developed a response plan that aims to save lives of women and children in this current crisis. However, we have funding shortfall of $10.8 million (about K5.5 billion).”
Malawi is facing one of its worst hunger situations in recent years following a 27.7 percent drop in maize production due to combined effects of floods and drought. n