The war in Ukraine not only causes suffering in the country itself, but also has serious consequences for the global food supply. Millions of children worldwide are particularly affected.

According to UNICEF, the Ukraine war is exacerbating the problem of severe malnutrition among children.

“Even before the war in Ukraine, many families were struggling to feed their children due to conflict, climate shock and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. Now there are additional problems. The Ukraine, which is considered Europe’s granary, can export much less grain due to the war, among other things.

The UNICEF report, Severe Acute Malnutrition: A Deadly Threat to Children, warns that both the number of children affected by malnutrition and the cost of the supplemental food they need will rise. Supplementary food, also called peanut paste, consists mainly of peanuts, oil, sugar and milk powder. It also has a long shelf life without refrigeration. According to Unicef, it is the main supplier of such peanut paste worldwide.

Severe malnutrition can be deadly for children

According to Unicef, at least ten million children worldwide are already not receiving the supplementary food they need to survive. The cost of this additional food will therefore increase by up to 16 percent over the next six months as the prices of important ingredients would skyrocket. This could prevent an additional 600,000 children a year from accessing life-saving treatment.

“A 16 percent price hike may sound manageable in the context of global grocery markets,” Russell said. “But at the end of the supply chain is the desperation of a malnourished child.” Severe acute malnutrition turns common childhood illnesses into deadly dangers. The emaciated bodies of the children are so weak that they cannot counteract viruses, bacteria or fungi. In this situation, government funding cuts are also jeopardizing vital aid, UNICEF warns.