The number of children treated for severe hunger has plateaued at
just over 3 million in recent years, comprising a fraction of the 16
million who need it, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said.
"Severe acute malnutrition is a silent emergency," said Diane
Holland, senior nutrition advisor at UNICEF in New York.
"Greater advocacy around the issue is essential, so that
governments, companies and civil society organizations mobilize and
make treatment ... a priority," she told the Thomson Reuters
A child suffering from severe hunger is up to nine times more likely
to die from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, according to Saul
Guerrero, director of nutrition for Action Against Hunger UK.
"The performance and impact of absolutely every intervention
worldwide addressing malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea will be
significantly enhanced if the children ... are simultaneously
treated for severe acute malnutrition," he said from New York.
UNICEF and Action Against Hunger are part of a coalition which aims
to double the numbers of children treated for extreme hunger.
No Wasted Lives also includes the European Union, UK government and
the Children's Investment Fund Foundation.
Two thirds of children who are severely malnourished are in Asia,
and a third in Africa. The majority of cases are in countries where
there is no hunger emergency, UNICEF said.
Severe acute malnutrition is treated with a paste of peanuts and
dried milk, which costs between $150 and $200 a child, but to boost
the number of children on treatment, that price tag needs to drop to
less than $100 per child, the coalition said.
Many of the treatments are made in Europe and north America.
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So producing more treatments in countries where they are needed,
finding cheaper but equally effective ingredients - perhaps
chickpeas or sesame seeds - would help cut costs, Guerrero said.
Children also need treatment nearer home - at the moment many have
to be taken long distances to a health clinic.
The coalition is proposing that community health workers who treat
malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, are also trained in treating severe
No Wasted Lives was launched in New York on Tuesday. A high-level
U.N. meeting on how to end hunger by 2030, is taking place in New
York on Thursday.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit
the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking,
corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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