Hosted by the UK Government, the one-day conference brought together representatives from more than 20 countries to strengthen efforts to achieve zero hunger and end malnutrition, in line with development goals sustainable development (SDG).
Far from the path
Speaking at a session on creating new approaches to ending preventable child deaths, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the world is far from meeting these targets.
“As we finished our meeting today, around 900 children will have died because they did not have enough food or care – children whose lives are only just beginning,” he said. said.
Of the 45 million children under the age of five who suffer from wasting, more than a third suffer from the most severe form of the disease, with the greatest risk of death.
Weak and exhausting
Tedros explained that a moderately or severely wasted child is 11 times more likely to die than a child who is not malnourished, often because their body is too weak to fight off diarrhea and pneumonia.
Although the factors causing wasting vary, they largely result from poverty and rising food prices, preventable diseases, inadequate access to health care and lack of clean water. , sanitation and hygiene.
“Conflict, the climate crisis, natural disasters and resource depletion significantly increase the risk of hunger and famine,” he said.
Maternal nutrition is important
Tedros added that “malnutrition is also generational” as an infant’s nutritional status is closely linked to that of its mother before, during and after pregnancy.
Poor maternal nutrition harms 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 stuck 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 do not have access to sufficient care. WHO added ready-to-use therapeutic foods to its list of essential medicines this year, which it hopes will increase their production and availability while reducing costs.
WHO and other UN agencies have also developed a Global Action Plan on Child Wasting, while a new guideline on prevention and management was released on Monday.
Identifying infants at risk
Tedros previewed some of the information contained in the guidance, which highlights the importance of adequate nutrition at home, access to quality health services and early identification of mothers in the need and infants at risk of poor growth and development.
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 country needs.
“We are seeing encouraging signs of progress. Twenty-three countries have now developed national roadmaps to combat child wasting,” he reported.
“We must now help these countries turn their roadmaps into action and saved lives. »
In conclusion, Tedros thanked the UK for hosting the summit and stressed that child deaths due to 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 of our world’s children,” he said.