The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that a nutrition crisis, exacerbated by continuing violence, instability and displacement, is threatening the lives and futures of thousands of children in Mali.
A report published by the UN agency on Monday shows that an estimated 165,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition across the country in 2018.
“Behind these figures are the lives of the most vulnerable and forgotten girls and boys in Mali,” said UNICEF Representative Lucia Elmi in a press release.
The rate of acute malnutrition among children under five has reached critical levels in the conflict-affected areas of Timbuktu and Gao, while the national rate also remains very high.
Children who suffer from the severe form of acute malnutrition have grave muscle wasting, very low weight for their height, and are nine times more likely to die in case of disease due to a weakened immune system.
Since the 2012 political and security crisis in Mali, violence and instability have led to displacements of population and disruption of social services in the north of the country, with detrimental impact on the nutritional status of the most vulnerable girls and boys.
Other factors, such as limited access to water and sanitation in northern areas and childhood diseases like diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and malaria, have aggravated the situation.