UNICEF Scales up Response to Combat Child Malnutrition in Myanmar

While precise information about nutrition levels in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is still difficult to obtain, UNICEF is concerned about the extent and severity of child malnutrition, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict. Child malnutrition levels were high prior to the outbreak of the conflict in Rakhine in June, and subsequent population displacement, coupled with the security situation, has hampered access to affected children. UNICEF is scaling up its ongoing efforts to reach children in need with lifesaving nutrition services.

NEW YORK (November 27, 2012) — While precise information about nutrition levels in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is still difficult to obtain, UNICEF is very concerned about the extent and severity of child malnutrition, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict. Child malnutrition levels were high prior to the outbreak of the conflict in Rakhine in June, and subsequent population displacement, coupled with the security situation, has hampered access to affected children. UNICEF is scaling up its ongoing efforts to reach children in need with lifesaving nutrition services.

“We are working with the government and other partners for unabated access and for additional funding to address the key issue of child malnutrition in the Rakhine state in order to reverse the risk faced by children affected by conflict,” said UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel.

On November 20, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar launched an additional $41 million appeal for Rakhine State. The plan will support urgent humanitarian aid through June 2013 to 115,000 displaced people living in camps with little or no access to basic services.

A joint rapid nutrition assessment carried out in Sittwe in early July indicated that some 2,000 acutely malnourished children were facing a high risk of mortality; 650 of these children were severely malnourished and in urgent need of therapeutic feeding. An additional 9,000 children were found to be in need of micronutrient supplements, and 2,500 children were likely to develop acute malnutrition if adequate food, healthcare, and water and sanitation were not provided.

UNICEF has been working with the Government and partners to examine the nutritional status of children in Sittwe, both to confirm the initial estimates of the severity of the situation and to ensure that those in need receive urgent help. In late October, of 4,066 children examined, 413 were found to be severely acute malnourished and 649 moderately malnourished. All these children were treated but they require ongoing nutritional support, and UNICEF expects there are more children in similar situations who have not yet been identified and reached.

In response to the situation, UNICEF, through the State Health Department, provided Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), supplementary food, and micronutrient supplements for 6–59-month-old children. The organization continued to promote young child feeding practices, including breastfeeding and complementary feeding.

More resources are urgently needed to continue and strengthen the nutrition response. Over the past decades, UNICEF has adopted a community-based approach to address persistent child malnutrition in Rakhine, the second poorest state in Myanmar.

UNICEF is committed to supporting the health, education, protection and development of all children in Rakhine State and across Myanmar, based on its humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality.

About UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 646.428.5010, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 917.415.6508, kschoop@unicefusa.org