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US leads new pledges to fight child malnutrition


By AFP
Published : 22 Sep 2022 09:48 PM

The United States on Wednesday announced new pledges for $280 million to fight childhood malnutrition through the supply of ready-to-eat packets in nations suffering from acute food shortages.

At an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the US Agency for International Development said the new funds were raised to stop childhood wasting, the low weight-for-height caused by poor nutrition.

USAID chief Samantha Power said that on a recent visit to Kenya, she had seen babies "just a few months old, born into hunger, who are too weak to cry."

"The truth is, wasting is treatable," Power said at the event with the United Nations children's agency UNICEF.

"Complex cases require more specialized medical attention, but for straightforward cases caught early, treatment is cost-effective and can be done at home," she said.

"Yet only a third of children suffering from wasting today receive the treatment they need. And with more funding, better delivery systems and improved access to health care, we can empower communities to save their children's lives."

USAID had promised $200 million in July. The latest contributions, which bring the total to $280 million, include commitments by non-governmental foundations and member states including Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands.

So-called ready-to-use therapeutic foods are pastes of high nutritional value that are given to children who suffer severe wasting.

Invented by French researcher Andre Briend, they can be consumed directly and have long shelf lives.

Power said a full course of the therapeutic packets takes several weeks and requires monitoring by a health worker, with the treatment costing a little more than $100 per child. The event, also organized with non-governmental organizations and Senegal, came hours after US President Joe Biden promised $2.9 billion in new funding to fight global food insecurity.

Food shortages have been worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a major grain exporter, with Somalia threatened by famine following successive failed rainy seasons.