Burkina Faso - Insecurity Pushes More Than 1 in 10 Children Into Acute Malnutrition in Heavily Affected Areas

Ouagadougou — New nutrition data shows that insecurity is leaving children exposed to alarming levels of malnutrition and the absence of basic services, warns UNICEF

Insecurity is pushing more than 1 in 10 children under the age of 5 into acute malnutrition in 22 out of 25 heavily affected areas surveyed in Burkina Faso, according to new data, warns UNICEF.

The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, with support from UNICEF and partners, commissioned the rapid nutrition survey[1] in July 2023 in 25 municipalities and localities in the Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre-North, North, Sahel, East and Centre-East regions.

"Across many conflict-affected regions, we're seeing a surge in the number of children who are gravely ill, suffering from wasting and in need of life-saving treatment. This high level of malnutrition rates is a stark reminder of the profound human cost of insecurity," said John Agbor, UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso.

Of the 18 communes and 7 localities surveyed, high malnutrition rates were found in 15 areas. Seven others were categorised as having very high prevalence rates above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent, with 1 in 5 children in 3 communities and localities facing acute malnutrition. Rates between internally displaced families and host communities were similar.

The survey also shows that the nutritional situation among pregnant and breastfeeding women is equally worrisome, with Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates varying from 2.5 to 9.9 per cent.

Limited accessibility to some localities, restricted services at certain health facilities and food markets, and low availability of water, hygiene, and sanitation infrastructure, are all factors concurring to the high rates of acute malnutrition among children in Burkina Faso. For example, as of August 2023, the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene reported that some 778 health facilities were closed or operating at a minimum capacity, leading to the deprivation of 3.6 million people of health care and nutrition.

Across the country, more than 630,000 children under 5 are estimated to likely face acute malnutrition this year, including 172,000 suffering from the severe acute form known as wasting, according to the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC).

UNICEF and partners supported the treatment of around 211,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition, including 98,000 severe cases, between January and October this year. This represents a 30 per cent and a 21.4 per cent increase, respectively, compared to the caseload in the previous three years.

The 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan and Humanitarian Needs Overview estimate at least US$54 million funds are needed for nutritional assistance in Burkina Faso. To date, less than one-third of this budget has been received.

UNICEF calls for increased flexible, timely and longer-term funding to meet the mounting needs of children and their families. Humanitarian workers and supplies must safely reach the most vulnerable children and families where urgently needed. Any disruptions or delays in aid delivery have a negative impact on the survival of children and their families.

"Together with the government, UNICEF and partners are working to ensure that no child suffers from malnutrition. We continue to carry out vital interventions to prevent malnutrition and care despite security and logistical challenges," said Agbor.

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