The UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has warned that malnutrition is on the rise in Zimbabwe due to a severe drought that has left four million people in need of food aid.
The UN agency has launched an appeal of 21 million U.S. dollars to meet the humanitarian needs of children in the southern African country.
Zimbabwe, the UNICEF says, is facing its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years as 2.1 percent of children under five have severe acute malnutrition, slightly higher than the international threshold of two percent required for an emergency response.
“Nearly 33,000 children are in urgent need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition,” UNICEF Zimbabwe acting representative, Jane Muita, said in a statement late Tuesday.
“More needs to be done to prevent this crisis from spiraling out of control,” she added.
Muita said as the drought swept across large parts of Zimbabwe, the number of hungry families in the country had doubled in the past eight months.
Children were among the most affected as the majority of them with severe acute malnutrition were aged between one and two, Muita said.
She further said on average, 35 percent of households had inadequate water supply for domestic use and the scarcity of water was exposing children to higher risks of diarrhea, typhoid and other water-borne disease including cholera.
In the wake of the severe drought which it has declared a state of disaster, the Zimbabwean government last month appealed for 1.6 billion U.S. dollars for the purchase of maize to feed the affected people.
The UN last week said it had raised 76 million U.S. dollars for Zimbabwe’s food aid out of a targeted 130 million dollars, adding that it had already reached more than one million people affected by hunger in Zimbabwe.