18 October 2005

Malawi: More Aid Needed, Says Unicef

Johannesburg — The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has revised its appeal for Malawi to meet the needs of those caught in the worst humanitarian crisis the country has experienced in a decade.

The rate of severe malnutrition among children under five had risen "alarmingly", UNICEF said. It has revised upwards its earlier appeal for US $2.5 million to $13 million, of which $9 million will go to fund nutritional programmes.

Humanitarian agencies initially expected the crisis to peak in the lean season between December and March, but there have been indications that the crisis may already be surpassing worst-case scenarios in some areas, particularly in the south. This has forced many agencies to review their plans in order to address the rapidly deteriorating situation.

Aid officials told IRIN they would be meeting with the government to discuss revisions to the UN's $88 million Flash Appeal for Malawi, after President Bingu wa Mutharika declared a state of disaster in the country at the weekend. A new Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report with updated analysis of the impact of widespread food shortages is also expected by the end of the month.

"The numbers of malnourished children are many times higher than the normal emergency threshold - immediate and urgent action is needed to save lives," UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Per Engebak said in a statement.

Over 1,000 children with severe acute malnutrition were receiving therapeutic feeding at nutritional rehabilitation units, and the number of monthly admissions was expected to increase to 3,500 as more of the country's estimated 46,000 severely malnourished children began to seek treatment.

A further 92,000 moderately malnourished children could become severely malnourished if they do not receive urgent assistance.

"At the moment, mothers in many areas are feeding their children only cassava, which is low in the nutrients children need," said Engebak. "These children are in a precarious situation. We will work with the World Food Programme to substantially increase the number of children benefiting from supplementary feeding from the current 16,000 to an additional 60,000 children and pregnant and lactating mothers."

Admissions of severely malnourished children to 48 nutrition rehabilitation units run by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and Action Against Hunger were one-quarter higher in August this year than during the humanitarian crisis of 2002.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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