Malnutrition affects children’s lives
Malnutrition puts children’s lives and future at risk. Timely treatment can save children’s lives; however, those who remain untreated are at risk of dying, delayed growth and impaired brain development – which impacts learning capacity and school performance, and labour force participation. Malnourished children also become more vulnerable to childhood diseases such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections and may grow dependent of a lifetime of health care.
Beyond the immediate nutritional and health impacts of the nutrition crises in the West and Central Africa region, children’s education in the region has been disrupted by conflict and population displacements, exposing them to greater risks.
The vast majority of children with severe acute malnutrition respond extremely well to treatment with Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) such as Plumpy’Nut, a fortified peanut butter-like paste containing fats, dietary fiber, carbohydrates, proteins and essential micronutrients. Calculations by UNICEF for several Sahel countries show average recovery rates of between 85 and 90 per cent during 2018.
Among the challenges, however, are the fact that only about half of all health facilities offer SAM treatment, supplies of RUTF are not always adequate to meet needs, some children are not brought back for follow-up, and many – far too many – do not arrive at treatment centres in time to save their lives.