Photo: Save the Children

UNICEF warns of acute malnutrition among women in Afghanistan

According to a report released by UNICEF on Tuesday, the number of pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women suffering from acute malnutrition has increased from 5.5 million to 6.9 million in 12 countries that are hardest hit by the global food and nutrition crisis. 

Published ahead of the International Women’s Day, the report states the 12 countries, which includes Afghanistan, Chad, and Yemen, “represent the epicentre of a global nutrition crisis that has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and ongoing drought, conflict, and instability in some countries.”

The report, titled “Undernourished and Overlooked: A Global Nutrition Crisis in Adolescent Girls and Women,” warns that the ongoing crises, combined with ongoing gender inequality, are deepening a nutrition crisis among adolescent girls and women that had already shown little improvement in the last two decades.

UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, said: “The global hunger crisis is pushing millions of mothers and their children into hunger and severe malnutrition.

“Without urgent action from the international community, the consequences could last for generations to come.”

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Inadequate nutrition during girls’ and women’s lives can lead to weakened immunity, poor cognitive development, and an increased risk of life-threatening complications, including during pregnancy and childbirth. Globally, 51 million children under 2 years suffer from stunting due to malnutrition, and about half become stunted during pregnancy and the first six months of life, the 500-day period when a child is fully dependent on maternal nutrition, according to the report’s new analysis.

The report calls for governments, development and humanitarian partners and donors, civil society organizations and development actors to transform food, health and social protection systems for adolescent girls and women.