UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell's remarks at the Uniting for Global Food Security conference in Berlin
As prepared for delivery
BERLIN, 24 June 2022 – "Excellencies, Colleagues, Friends,
"It is an honor to join you today – at an urgent moment for the world’s most vulnerable children.
"From UNICEF’s perspective, it is a crisis like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, and climate change are creating the conditions for severe food insecurity, now exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
"As is always the case, none of this is the responsibility of children and yet, they pay the highest price.
"This multiple crisis requires a fully integrated response – especially for their youngest members.
"The scale of this crisis requires actions that go beyond the immediate humanitarian response. We also need to invest in building stronger, more resilient food, health, and social protection systems that all children rely on – and that help communities and countries prevent and respond to future crises.
"In countries with severe food insecurity, we are working actively with WFP, supporting efforts to make food available at scale.
"But let us be clear: On its own, it is not enough.
"Severely malnourished children who are already too weak to eat ordinary food cannot be saved with wheat and soy. They need treatment, including access to Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food.
"But the need for such treatment far outstrips current funding.
"Food, fuel, and fertilizer shortages plus inflation are causing prices to soar almost everywhere – and that includes the price of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, which has already shot up by 16 per cent.
"And as the cost of treatment soars, so too are the needs. Yesterday, UNICEF issued a global media alert, warning that since the start of 2022, the hunger crisis has pushed one child every 60 seconds into severe malnutrition in the 15 worst affected countries in the world.
"That’s almost 8 million children under the age of 5 at risk of death from severe wasting unless they receive immediate therapeutic food and care.
"This comes on top of existing high levels of malnutrition in places like the Horn of Africa and the Central Sahel.
"The scale of the crisis demands an unprecedented response from UNICEF, and from all of us here. And more donor support is sorely needed.
"Most of us have a child in our lives whom we love beyond all measure. Imagine watching that child quite literally waste away. They lose weight rapidly, suffer from diarrhea, and become eerily quiet. None of us could accept that.
"UNICEF is urgently appealing for $1.2 billion to help avert potentially millions of child deaths.
"We are grateful to all of you for prioritizing this crisis, and for not forgetting malnourished children in the global response.
"There is still a small window of opportunity to act to save these children’s lives. Please don’t waste the opportunity.