Alarming rates of malnutrition in children have hit critical levels in Chad.
One in four under-five year olds in Chad may be malnourished, revealed a survey by The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).
The survey, carried out with Chad's health ministry, showed serious malnutrition rates ranging from 15.2 to 24.9 per cent in six areas of the central African country’s desert region. The World Health Organisation’s emergency threshold is 15 per cent. These malnutrition rates are even higher than in neighbouring Niger, also facing a severe food crisis affecting over seven million people, said the charity, Action Against Hunger.
"These latest figures prove that families have been experiencing a severe reduction in their ability to cope and fend for themselves," said Unicef’s Marzio Babille.
The agency is scaling up its aid work in the area and aims to help 50,000 of the most vulnerable children. Action Against Hunger is supporting nutrition and working with the Chadian Ministry of Health to extend its treatment programmes to an extra 10 health centres in areas with soaring malnutrition rates. These programmes are backed by UK aid.
“This expansion should significantly increase the accessibility and quality of care for malnourished children,” said Action Against Hunger’s Jean-François Carémel. “However, at the moment, the needs far outstrip the resources available to diagnose and treat all the children. In addition we are facing an extensive crisis that not only requires urgent action, but also a sustained approach to prevent future recurrences.” said Carémel.
Chad’s desert area or Sahelian belt often experiences acute malnutrition rates above 20 per cent during the “hunger gap”— a period between harvests when food is scarce. But this year has been particularly harsh. Lack of rain over the past three years has helped push nearly two-thirds of households into food insecurity. And problems with access to farming land, water and health care also fuel the skyrocketing malnutrition rates.
The area has also suffered from the effects of climate change and soaring food prices leaving women and children more vulnerable, said Unicef. This is made worse by a poor healthcare system, low rates of breast feeding, access to clean drinking water and outbreaks of diseases such as measles and meningitis.
Unicef appealed on Friday for donations to get more funding. It said it is £5 million short on its £12m appeal to support 50,000 of the most vulnerable children.