Almost half a million children are projected to suffer from wasting in 2022 in Tigray region, and it is estimated that 93,000 children could develop a severe form of wasting putting them at risk of death. A child suffering from severe wasting is nine time more likely to die than a well-nourished child. Children under 5 are currently already experiencing above emergency threshold levels of wasting (>15%) across several parts of the region with children aged 6-24months being the worst affected. The Tigray Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) conducted in June 2022 reports that 29.4% of children have wasting and 5.8% have severe wasting using MUAC measurements. Other alarming figures are the levels of malnutrition in pregnant and lactating women (PLW) which range from 55-80% as shown by the find and treat campaigns results and the EFSA report (2022). The number of low-birth weight babies in hospitals has been increasing which raise additional serious concerns.
To improve diets of children and prevent malnutrition in Tigray, Nutrition cluster members provide Infant and young child feeding education and counselling to pregnant and lactating women and caregivers of children focusing on the essential first 1000 days of life. Despite these efforts, the quality of the diets remains low, and this inflicts devastating damage in children, stunting children’s growth, impairing their brain development, and leaving them susceptible to diseases. Only 1.3% of the children are meeting their minimum acceptable diet which is an indicator that considers the diversity and frequency of meals. This is also linked to the food insecurity in the region where 89% of the households were classified as food insecure while 47% were severely food insecure.
To protect children’s right to food and nutrition in Tigray, from October 2021, UNICEF and its partners have spearheaded the find and treat campaigns in 79 accessible Woredas. In a propitious environment, the campaign could have reached the 79 woredas in just 1 month. However, due to lack of cash, fuel, and supplies, only 19 out of the 79 Woredas have been covered with the campaign to date. 9 additional Woredas in the western zone are currently inaccessible. The Find and Treat campaigns focus on screening of children and PLW for malnutrition, providing treatment for the malnourished while linking them with a follow-up health facility. Additionally, supplements to prevent vitamin and nutrient deficiencies are provided to women and children. The campaigns are also a platform for monitoring the nutrition situation of children in the Woredas since partners have not been able to carry out SMART surveys in the past two years. Also due to lack of phone or internet connection monitoring of the nutrition response has been difficult.