Six weeks since Russia invaded its neighbor, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, it said imports have been stopped to the Middle East and North Africa, where over 90% of food comes from ‘abroad.
Prices have also risen for basic necessities, including wheat, cooking oil and fuel as well if this situation persists, “it will have a serious impact on childrenespecially in Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, ”said UNICEF.
Too poor to pay
Adele Khodr, who is UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, warned of “unprecedented increases in food prices” affecting families. unable to pay due to “ongoing conflicts, political instability, COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine“.
Because of these multiple problems, “the number of malnourished children is likely to increase dramatically,” said Ms. Khodr, in an appeal to partners for help “to consolidate efforts to urgently provide and increase prevention, early diagnosis and the treatment of malnutrition to address the needs of millions of children and women, especially in the countries most affected by the crises. This is essential to prevent a massive malnutrition crisis for children in the region “.
Efforts to prevent
UNICEF works with partners to provide and expand life-saving treatment services for children with severe wasting, along with the early detection of wasting in children under the age of five. Together with partners, UNICEF also provides preventive nutrition services, including micronutrient supplements and growth monitoring, as well as advice and support on breastfeeding and age-appropriate complementary feeding.
“We are ready to facilitate the renewal of the nutritional response in the region to further strengthen links with the agriculture, social protection, education and water and sanitation sectors to reach more children in need.” , Ms Khodr said
According to UNICEF, fewer than four in 10 children in the Middle East and North Africa are receiving the diets they need to thrive and develop properly.
The region is already home to high rates of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, meaning nearly one in five children are stunted and about the same number suffer from wasting – or rapid weight loss – related to lack of food.
As alarming as these figures are, the situation is even worse in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa that have been hardest hit by the war in Ukraine.
In the Yemen, 45 percent of children are stunted and over 86 percent suffer from anemiathe most common causes of which include nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron, although deficiencies in folate, vitamins B12 and A are also important causes.
UNICEF also warned that 13.6% of children in Sudan suffer from wasting, 36.4% are stunted and nearly half suffer from anemia.
In Lebanon, 94 percent of young children are not getting the diets they need, while over 40 percent of women and children under the age of five suffer from anemia;
In Syria, where the price of the average food basket nearly doubled in 2021, only one in four children receive a sufficiently healthy diet.