Mariama Lansanna, who is 35 years old, holds her baby Hawa, who is showing signs of malnutrition, while her middle upper arm circumference is measured at the health centre in Juru, near Kenema in Sierra Leone

The combined effects of the war in Ukraine and other conflicts, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the world into an unprecedented food and nutrition crisis.

The 15 worst affected countries are in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan) and Central Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria) regions, and also include Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Madagascar and Yemen.

In these 15 countries, there are an estimated 8 million children suffering from severe wasting; over 27 million children are living in severe food insecurity; and over 40 million children are living in severe food poverty, with limited diets that lack nutrition required during early childhood for healthy growth and development. 

Undernutrition is linked to nearly half of all deaths of children under age 5

Some 149 million children — about one in five worldwide — are chronically malnourished. When not addressed, malnutrition puts children at greater risk of dying from common infections, increases the frequency and severity of such infections and delays recovery.

Food crises and threat of famine also cause displacement, which disrupts lives and interrupts childhoods. Millions of people have been displaced by food crises in recent years. 

How UNICEF fights malnutrition worldwide

UNICEF works with partners to deliver humanitarian assistance to those impacted by food crises, screening and treating children suffering from malnutrition and providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene services to communities where these basic resources are in short supply, among other interventions.

UNICEF procures 75 to 80 percent of the world's supply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, a treatment for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which is life-threatening. UNICEF will often lead global nutrition emergency preparedness and response efforts, coordinating with partners to reach the most vulnerable children and families in the hardest-to-reach areas. UNICEF also works with governments to strengthen local health and nutrition systems to reduce risks of malnutrition during a crisis.

Malnutrition is a "silent threat" to millions of children, says Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of the Office of Emergency Programs. "The damage it does can be irreversible, robbing children of their mental and physical potential."

UNICEF's No Time to Waste campaign aims to accelerate the global response to the malnutrition crisis. Learn more.

UNICEF’s goal is to protect and promote diets, services and practices for the early prevention, detection and treatment of child wasting — an extreme form of malnutrition. Learn more about UNICEF's nutrition programs.

Help UNICEF save children’s lives. A donation of $55 can provide a two-month supply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food — enough to bring a severely malnourished child back to health.