Childhood deaths from wasting are predictable and preventable: WHO chief

Convened by the UK Government, the one-day conference brought together representatives from more than 20 countries to underpin efforts to achieve zero hunger and end malnutrition, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Far from the road

During a session on creating new approaches to ending preventable child deaths, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the world is far from achieving these goals.

“By the time we have finished our meeting today, Some 900 children will have died from not having enough food or care. – children whose lives are just beginning,” he said. saying.

Of the 45 million children under five with wasting, more than a third suffer from the most severe form of the disease, with the highest risk of dying.

Weak and wasted

Tedros explained that a child with moderate or severe wasting is 11 times more likely to die than a child who is not malnourished, often because their body is too weak to fight diarrhea and pneumonia.

Although the factors driving wasting vary, they are largely the result of poverty and rising food prices, preventable diseases, inadequate access to healthcare, and lack of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.

“Conflict, the climate crisis, natural disasters and resource depletion dramatically increase the risk of hunger and famine,” he said.

Important maternal nutrition

Tedros added that “malnutrition is also generational”, since the nutritional status of a baby is closely related to that of its mother before, during and after pregnancy.

Poor maternal nutrition impairs fetal development, contributing to low birth weight, wasting, and poor growth.

Children who survive will suffer from malnutrition and poor health for most of their lives and will be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, debt and poor health.

Essential therapeutic foods

He said severe acute malnutrition can be treated with therapeutic milks, food and fluid support, depending on the needs of the child.

However, although treatment coverage has increased, many children who need it cannot access sufficient care. This year the WHO added ready-to-use therapeutic foods to its List of Essential Medicines, which it hopes will increase their production and availability while reducing costs.

The WHO and other UN agencies have also developed a Global Action Plan on child wasting, while a new guideline on prevention and management was published on Monday.

Identify babies at risk

Tedros anticipated some of the information contained in the guide, which emphasizes the importance of an adequate diet at home, access to quality health services and the early identification of both mothers in need and babies at risk for growth and development. deficient.

WHO is working with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and other UN agencies to help governments and health workers implement the recommendations and adapt them to countries’ needs.

“We are seeing some encouraging signs of progress. “Twenty-three countries have already completed national roadmaps to address wasting in children,” she reported.

“Now we must support these countries to turn their roadmaps into action and save lives.”

In conclusion, Tedros thanked the United Kingdom for convening the Summit and stressed that child deaths from wasting are predictable and preventable.

“WHO looks forward to working with all of you to make food a source of life and hope for all the children of our world,” he said.

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