Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Without treatment, up to 170,000 children in Ethiopia could die this year from severe acute malnutrition, the local UNICEF office warned Wednesday here.
Reckoning that emergency health and nutrition programmes in the country only had 25 per cent of funding, the UN agency said it urgently needed US$42 million to increase fourfold the number of therapeutic feeding centres in the country.
With that funding, UNICEF said it would step up life-saving vitamin A, de-worming treatment, measles and nutrition interventions for 6.
8 million children.
Meanwhile, water and sanitation interventions only have 18 percent of funding for this year.
At least 1.
2 million people in vulnerable areas of Ethiopia are currently in need of emergency water and sanitation interventions.
"Severe acute malnutrition among Ethiopia's children has reached alarming levels across the country.
"New data suggest that critical levels of severe acute malnutrition are still occurring across Ethiopia," said Bjorn Ljungqvist, the UNICEF representative in Ethiopia.
The scale of the problem was confirmed by numerous nutrition surveys and nutritional screening carried out under Ethiopia's UNICEF-supported Enhanced Outreach Strategy.
The most alarming situation was recorded at Fugnido and Bonga refugee camps in western Ethiopia's Gambella region.
Two UN agencies, the World Food Programme and UNHCR recorded global acute malnutrition levels of over 29 percent and severe acute malnutrition levels of seven percent -- well past the critical level -- in the two camps.
In Fik zone of the eastern Somali region in June 2005, Save The Children UK recorded global acute malnutrition rates of up to 20 percent, of which 2.
4 percent were severe cases.
UNICEF supports 18 therapeutic feeding programmes through NGOs and 30 therapeutic feeding units integrated in health facilities, providing the necessary drugs, equipment, technical assistance and therapeutic products.
Available data show severe acute malnutrition levels at twice average levels in many areas.
Once extrapolated, that suggests 136,000 Ethiopian children are currently severely malnourished and another 360,000 moderately malnourished (or at risk of becoming severely malnourished).
Relief agencies fear that the death rate could accelerate if additional shocks, including measles, malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia outbreaks are not prevented or treated rapidly.
The deteriorating situation has been exacerbated by erratic pastoral rains, the delayed implementation of the government's Productive Safety Net Programme, poor main rains in eastern Ethiopia in 2004 and the continuing impact of the 2002-3 drought.
Poor rains have affected household food stocks in the first part of 2005 and resulted in limited pasture and loss of livestock.
Regarding sanitation programmes, UNICEF said they remained badly under-funded.
From the $15 million that the agency appealed for earlier this year, only $2.
7 million or 18 percent has come in.
This is having a major impact on UNICEF's ability to provide life saving emergency water tankering to some of Ethiopia's worst-hit areas.
UNICEF originally hoped to reach just under 420,000 people with tankering.
To date it has only been able to serve a third of that figure.
With UNICEF support, Ethiopia currently has resources to treat 5,350 severely malnourished children at any one time.
UNICEF plans to provide support for another 3,000 centres in the next 60 days, building up to a national capacity of 19,400 places by the end of the year.