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LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 61-62

Need for an Urgent Response to Counter the Risk of Famine and Malnutrition in the African Region: United Nations Children’s Fund


Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College & Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication27-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh R Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College & Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Ammapettai Village, Thiruporur-Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram, Chennai 603108, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/mamcjms.mamcjms_54_17

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How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Need for an Urgent Response to Counter the Risk of Famine and Malnutrition in the African Region: United Nations Children’s Fund. MAMC J Med Sci 2018;4:61-2

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Need for an Urgent Response to Counter the Risk of Famine and Malnutrition in the African Region: United Nations Children’s Fund. MAMC J Med Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Dec 14];4:61-2. Available from: http://www.mamcjms.in/text.asp?2018/4/1/61/228653



Dear Editor,

Malnutrition among children has been acknowledged as a global public health menace, and is responsible for morbidity, deaths, and impairment in the quality of life of both children and their families.[1] In addition, it accounts for extensive financial burden on the families and caseload on the public health care delivery system.[1],[2] Also, it predisposes the malnourished children to various infectious diseases and even possesses the potential to impair the mental intelligence, growth, and long-term development of a child.[1],[2]

The available estimates from northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen indicate that close to 1.4 million children are at the risk of a fatal outcome due to the anticipated famine in the region in the current year.[3] In addition, it has been anticipated that in the excess of 20 million children in the region are either starved or unwell or internally displaced or have dropped out of the schools due to the ongoing civil wars or drought.[3] Owing to a multitude of factors, these children are high-risk candidates for deaths, not only due to starvation, but also because of the acquisition of infections such as cholera or measles, which significantly impair the health status of the children.[2],[4]

Moreover, the risk of famine is no longer limited to above mentioned nations, because violence, hunger, and thirst often force people to migrate to neighboring nations, due to which the situation over there also can deteriorate.[3],[5] It is quite important to understand that the ongoing crisis is predominantly man-made, because the conflicting parties have forced farmers to abandon their land; subsequently, most of the available infrastructure has been destroyed, and that the humanitarian aid provided in the region has either been blocked or taken by force.[5] Thus, families have migrated from their homes and children have been deprived of health care and nutrition services, clean water, as well as sanitation and hygiene facilities; all of which have together made children more vulnerable to malnutrition.[2],[4],[5]

The available figures from the Horn of Africa indicate that almost 0.1 million children lost their lives to famine 6 years back, and this happened mainly because the global assistance to respond to the challenge was not prompt.[3] It is high time that immediate actions are taken to reverse the famine wherever it exists and not wait unnecessarily till it is declared.[3] However, nothing much can be achieved unless conflicting parties are involved in and encouraged to stop the violation of human rights and permit unrestricted access to all the available humanitarian services.[5] Further, there is a great need to mobilize emergency relief teams and support the ongoing relief measures with adequate financial support to ensure that the provision of food, water, health care, education, and life-saving supportive measures is available to all vulnerable children.[4],[5]

The United Nations Children’s Fund has realized the magnitude of the problem and is implementing measures to screen children for malnutrition, treat children with severe acute malnutrition, conduct counseling sessions to educate caregivers about the ways to feed infants and young children, provide micronutrient supplements, expand the reach of emergency primary healthcare services, and make arrangements to enhance access of millions of people to safe water.[3],[5] In addition, displacement or cross-border movement of people and the incidence of malnutrition have been closely monitored.[3]

In conclusion, the risk of famine and acute malnutrition is extremely high in the African nations. Considering that the time is running out, and the lives of millions of children are under threat. Hence, it is high time that resources are pooled, and steps are taken in a systematic manner to improve the existing situation.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
World Health Organization. Infant and Young Child Feeding – Fact Sheet; 2016. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs342/en/. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 9].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Childhood malnutrition: Where does the world stand? What else is needed? Int J Prev Med 2016;7:36.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
United Nations Children’s Fund. Famine Crisis – Time is Running Out; 2017. Available from: https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/index_95476.html. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 8].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Formulating a comprehensive strategy to counter the menace of malnutrition in developing countries. Arch Med Health Sci 2014;2:266–8.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
United Nations Children’s Fund. Time is Running Out for Children as Famine, Drought and War Threaten Millions; 2017. Available from: https://www.unicef.org/media/media_95478.html. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 9].  Back to cited text no. 5
    




 

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