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Starvation: a weapon of war that could kill 590,000 children by the end of 2018

The Guardian logo The Guardian 10/9/2018 Karen McVeigh
Congolese girl in a church: Save the Children said more than 300,000 children will die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where nutrition programmes have an 8% funding shortfall. © AFP/Getty Images Save the Children said more than 300,000 children will die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where nutrition programmes have an 8% funding shortfall.

Starvation being used as a weapon of war has become the new normal, according to Save the Children. Its analysis shows more than half a million infants in conflict zones could die of malnutrition by the end of the year if they do not receive treatment, the equivalent of one every minute.

Somali children push a jerry-can of water outside their makeshift shelter at a camp for the internally displaced people outside Mogadishu, Somalia August 28, 2018 REUTERS/Feisal Omar © Catalyst Images Somali children push a jerry-can of water outside their makeshift shelter at a camp for the internally displaced people outside Mogadishu, Somalia August 28, 2018 REUTERS/Feisal Omar The charity makes its own estimates using UN data, and projects that 4.5 million under-fives will need treatment for life-threatening hunger this year in the most dangerous conflict zones – an increase of 20% since 2016. At current rates, only one in three will receive treatment, and 590,000 could die as a result.

In this photo taken Friday, June 1, 2018, children sing a song at a school in Mbandaka, Congo. For the first time since the Ebola virus was identified more than 40 years ago, a vaccine has been dispatched to front line health workers in an attempt to combat the epidemic from the onset. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) © Catalyst Images In this photo taken Friday, June 1, 2018, children sing a song at a school in Mbandaka, Congo. For the first time since the Ebola virus was identified more than 40 years ago, a vaccine has been dispatched to front line health workers in an attempt to combat the epidemic from the onset. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) The data emerged ahead of Tuesday’s launch of the UN annual report on food security, which last year warned that global hunger was rising for the first time since the turn of the century, fuelled by conflict and climate change.

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In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, two young boys play inside a cardboard box during an aid distribution by international humanitarian group Oxfam on the island of Nyajam, off the mainland from the opposition-held town of Nyal in Unity state, in South Sudan. The government claims a shattering five-year civil war is finally over, but skepticism soars and the latest attempt at peace already shows cracks. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) © Catalyst Images In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, two young boys play inside a cardboard box during an aid distribution by international humanitarian group Oxfam on the island of Nyajam, off the mainland from the opposition-held town of Nyal in Unity state, in South Sudan. The government claims a shattering five-year civil war is finally over, but skepticism soars and the latest attempt at peace already shows cracks. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) “The broad story is we’ve seen a drastic increase in the number of children at risk of death as a result of hunger related problems” said Kevin Watkins, the CEO of Save the Children. “Using starvation as a weapon of war has become the new normal, with devastating consequences for children.From Yemen to South Sudan the failure to protect children from hunger is putting children at risk.”

A child injured in a deadly Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Thursday rests in a hospital in Saada, Yemen, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. Yemen's shiite rebels are backing a United Nations' call for an investigation into the airstrike in the country's north that hit a bus carrying civilians, many of them school children in a busy market, killing dozens of people including many children. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed) © Catalyst Images A child injured in a deadly Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Thursday rests in a hospital in Saada, Yemen, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. Yemen's shiite rebels are backing a United Nations' call for an investigation into the airstrike in the country's north that hit a bus carrying civilians, many of them school children in a busy market, killing dozens of people including many children. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed) There were chronic shortfalls in donor funding in conflict zones. The charity described as “striking” the example of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which it estimated had the highest number of infants with life-threatening malnutrition while facing an 8.6% funding shortfall for nutrition.

A Somali boy is seen at the new Kabasa Internally displaced camp in the northern Somali town of Dollow, Somalia, February 25, 2018. Picture taken February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner © Catalyst Images A Somali boy is seen at the new Kabasa Internally displaced camp in the northern Somali town of Dollow, Somalia, February 25, 2018. Picture taken February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner It estimated 1.9 million infants in the DRC would suffer severe acute malnutrition (SAM) – the most dangerous form of under-nutrition – by the end of 2018. With 1.6 million likely to remain untreated, more than 300,000 children could die, it said.

In this photo taken Friday, June 1, 2018, 11-year-old German Umba, whose father died in May of Ebola and who is being monitored by the U.N. for potential signs of infection along with her 6-year-old brother, hides her face in her shirt, sobbing, outside her classroom in Mbandaka, Congo. For the first time since the Ebola virus was identified more than 40 years ago, a vaccine has been dispatched to front line health workers in an attempt to combat the epidemic from the onset. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) © Catalyst Images In this photo taken Friday, June 1, 2018, 11-year-old German Umba, whose father died in May of Ebola and who is being monitored by the U.N. for potential signs of infection along with her 6-year-old brother, hides her face in her shirt, sobbing, outside her classroom in Mbandaka, Congo. For the first time since the Ebola virus was identified more than 40 years ago, a vaccine has been dispatched to front line health workers in an attempt to combat the epidemic from the onset. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) More than half of the infants at risk from untreated SAM were in the DRC, while Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia were the next four most impacted. On average the nutrition programmes were around a third funded, with the exception of Yemen, which was 60% funded.

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2018, file photo, a young child soldier sits on the ground at a release ceremony, where he and others laid down their weapons and traded in their uniforms to return to "normal life", in Yambio, South Sudan. Six African nations are among the 10 worst in the world to be a child in a war zone, according to a new report by Save the Children released Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 that looks at factors including attacks on schools, child soldier recruitment, sexual violations, killings and lack of humanitarian access. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File) © Catalyst Images FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2018, file photo, a young child soldier sits on the ground at a release ceremony, where he and others laid down their weapons and traded in their uniforms to return to "normal life", in Yambio, South Sudan. Six African nations are among the 10 worst in the world to be a child in a war zone, according to a new report by Save the Children released Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 that looks at factors including attacks on schools, child soldier recruitment, sexual violations, killings and lack of humanitarian access. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File) “In DRC, where funding is critical in keeping people alive, the nutrition appeals are heavily underfunded,” said Watkins. “The picture is different in Yemen, which is relatively well funded in terms of its nutrition programme. But in Yemen, the real damage of the war is the liquidity crisis which is draining the lifeblood of the economy. You see 400,000 children at risk of malnutrition.”

An internally displaced girl prepares to collect water in a plastic can in the Sudd Swamp near the town of Nyal, in South Sudan August 19, 2018. Picture taken August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu © Catalyst Images An internally displaced girl prepares to collect water in a plastic can in the Sudd Swamp near the town of Nyal, in South Sudan August 19, 2018. Picture taken August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu Previous research by Save the Children found an increasing number of “grave violations” of children’s rights, due to the denial of humanitarian access and attacks on aid workers assisting children, in 2017 – 1,460 cases, up from 1,014 cases in 2016.

Boys including some of those who survived last month's air strike that killed dozens of people including children, sit outside a house in Saada, Yemen September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Naif Rahma © Catalyst Images Boys including some of those who survived last month's air strike that killed dozens of people including children, sit outside a house in Saada, Yemen September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Naif Rahma Symptoms of SAM include jutting ribs and loose skin, with visible wasting of body tissue or swelling in the ankles or feet. Children with it also have substantially reduced immune systems, and are prone to contract and die of diseases like pneumonia, cholera and malaria.

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