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UNICEF Says Ukraine War Exacerbating Issue Of Severe Child Hunger.

A Ukrainian farmer is seen in a field with a tractor. Ukraine is one of the world's largest suppliers of grain.

A Ukrainian farmer is seen in a field with a tractor. Ukraine is one of the world's largest suppliers of grain.

The United Nations' children's agency says war in Ukraine, one of the world's largest grain suppliers, is threatening to plunge the world into a "spiraling" food crisis, exacerbating the problem of severe hunger among a growing number of children.

UNICEF said in a report released on May 17 that the cost of life-saving treatment for the most severely malnourished children is set to jump by as much as 16 percent due to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which comes on top of strains on the food system created by the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

“Even before the war in Ukraine placed a strain on food security worldwide, conflict, climate shocks and COVID-19 were already wreaking havoc on families’ ability to feed their children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

“The world is rapidly becoming a virtual tinderbox of preventable child deaths and child suffering from wasting,” she added.

The report says prices of raw ingredients for ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) have jumped amid the global food crisis sparked by the war and pandemic, while global financing to save the lives of children suffering from wasting is also under threat.

Without an influx of funds before the end of the year, as many as 600,000 more children could join the 10 million severely wasted children already suffering from not having access to the food packets.

“For millions of children every year, these sachets of therapeutic paste are the difference between life and death. A 16 percent price increase may sound manageable in the context of global food markets, but at the end of that supply chain is a desperately malnourished child, for whom the stakes are not manageable at all,” Russell said.

Severe wasting – where children are too thin for their height resulting in weakened immune systems – is the most immediate, visible and life-threatening form of malnutrition. Worldwide, at least 13.6 million children under five suffer from severe wasting, resulting in one in five deaths among this age group, according to UNICEF.

To prevent a worsening of the crisis, the agency called on governments to increase wasting aid by at least 59 percent above 2019 levels, and to include treatment for child wasting under health and long-term development funding schemes.

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