UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell's remarks at an address on the state of global food security and nutrition

As prepared for delivery

18 July 2022
UNICEF/UN0232174/Njiokiktjien VII Photo
Afra, held by her mother Therese, is being checked for malnourishment at Al Sabbah Children's hospital in Juba, South Sudan.

WASHINGTON, D.C., 18 July 2022  "Thank you, Henrietta [Fore] for your friendship and for your leadership on this critical issue.

"I also want to thank Administrator Power and our friends at CSIS and the Eleanor Crook Foundation for bringing us together today – and for taking urgent action to address the growing global nutrition crisis.

"We are seeing the harsh impact of this crisis in the rapidly increasing number of children under five who suffer from severe wasting.

"One child has become severely wasted every minute of every day since the beginning of this year.

"In the 15 hardest-hit countries, over 8 million children under the age of five may die from severe wasting unless they receive immediate therapeutic food and care.

"If you have ever seen a severely wasted child – as I have – it never leaves you. I will be forever haunted by the tiny, fragile children I saw on recent missions in Ethiopia and in Afghanistan.

"They are among millions of children suffering from wasting around the world today.

"Children suffering from severe wasting are too weak and sick to eat ordinary food. They cannot be saved with bags of wheat or soy. To survive, they need urgent therapeutic nutrition – RUTF.

"This situation is critical. The conditions that created this crisis – the crushing economic impact of the pandemic, war in Ukraine and other parts of the world, and climate change-driven drought – are putting more children at risk every day.

"Rising rates of severe malnutrition are serious enough. But this is coinciding with sharply decreased rates of immunization against childhood diseases – a lethal combination for malnourished children.

"This could quickly become more than a nutrition crisis. Without rapid action, we could be facing a child survival crisis.

"Ahead of the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June, UNICEF appealed for $1.2 billion to prevent and treat severe wasting in millions of children in desperate need.

"The G7 collectively pledged generous support to tackle the food crisis. But it is still unclear how much of the pledged support will help us reach children with lifesaving foods – including RUTF – while there is still time to save their lives.

"The United States has consistently played a pivotal role in addressing malnutrition – and we are grateful for their leadership in addressing the growing crisis.

"U.S. support has been instrumental in helping UNICEF and our partners scale up early prevention, detection and treatment policies and programmes.

"I want to thank Administrator Power for being such a powerful advocate for children at such a crucial time.

"We need other governments to follow. We need everyone to affirm that children’s lives matter. 

"For if we do not, we will see decades of progress in child survival slip through our fingers. None of us can tolerate that. 

"Not when we know what works. Not when we know how to deliver it.

"We do not have a moment to waste.

Thank you."

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