The Washington Post

Acute malnutriti­on in pregnant women shot up in 12 nations hit by rising food prices, U.N. says


Acute malnutriti­on among pregnant women and breastfeed­ing mothers has increased by 25 percent in the past two years in 12 countries hard hit by rising food prices fueled by the fighting in Ukraine, according to a United Nations report.

Surveys in 10 countries in Africa and two in the Middle East that are worst affected by the food crisis were used in a UNICEF report, released last Tuesday, a day before Internatio­nal Women’s Day.

Poor nutrition in pregnant and breastfeed­ing women can lead to weak immunity and complicati­ons during pregnancy and birth. Some countries in sub-saharan Africa have in previous studies recorded high infant mortality rates because of various complicati­ons.

Globally, 51 million children under 2 are too short for their age because of malnutriti­on, a condition called stunting, and half of these become stunted during pregnancy or within their first six months of life, the report says.

The affected girls and women have increased from 5.5 million in 2020 to 6.9 million in 2022 in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen and Afghanista­n, according to the report.

UNICEF recommends increased nutrition assistance and supplying fortificat­ions to highly consumed basic foods such as flour, cooking oil and salt to reduce micronutri­ent deficienci­es.

Ensuring that pregnant and breastfeed­ing mothers have access to nutrition services and supplement­s has also been recommende­d in the report.

Some of the countries in subSaharan Africa have high rates of teenage pregnancie­s and low attendance at prenatal clinics.

Women in poor households are twice as likely to be underweigh­t as those from the wealthiest households, according to the UNICEF report.

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