Cases of malnutrition among Madagascan children expected to increase fourfold

MADAGASCAR – The number of acutely malnourished children in Madagascar is likely to increase fourfold since the previous assessment conducted in October 2020, warn UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

At least half a million children under the age of five are expected to be acutely malnourished including 110,000 in severe condition, in drought-affected southern Madagascar, suffering irreversible damage to their growth and development.

’We need to double our efforts to curb this catastrophic rise in hunger but we cannot do it without significant funding resources and buy in from partners,” said Moumini Ouedraogo, WFP’s Representative in Madagascar.

Child malnutrition indicators include; stunting, wasting, overweight and underweight depending on the magnitude and patterns of under- and overnutrition.

Data published by UNICEF-WHO-WB Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates inter-agency group shows that in 2020, globally, 149.2 million children under the age of 5 years of age were stunted, 45.4 million wasted, and 38.9 million overweight.

UNICEF, however, worryingly noted that cases of malnutrition declined in all regions except in Africa. This, can be partly attribute to consecutive years of drought which have wiped out harvests and cut off people’s access to food, as is the case in Madagascar.

More than 1.14 million people are food insecure in southern Madagascar and the number of people in ‘Catastrophic’ conditions (IPC Phase 5) risks doubling to 28,000 by October.

There is an urgent need to invest in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition in children to prevent the situation from becoming even more critical,” said Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF’s Representative in Madagascar.

By providing families with access to safe water and treating malnourished children with therapeutic food, lives can be saved. But we have to act now.”

Food insecurity has been rising in Africa in recent years and the continent is not on track to eliminate hunger by 2030.

The number of hungry people on the continent has risen by 47.9 million since 2014 and now stands at 250.3 million, or nearly one-fifth of the population, FAO has reported.

Continuous increases in the prices of certain basic foods coupled with a marked decrease in availability on the markets continues to negatively impact food security.

Moreover, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions are posing additional challenges limiting people’s access to food, markets and jobs.

The food system in Africa does not provide food at a cost that makes nutritious food affordable to a majority of the population, and this is reflected in the high disease burden associated with maternal and child malnutrition, high body-mass, micronutrient deficiencies and dietary risk factors.

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