Ukraine crisis costs UNICEF $12M extra in Horn of Africa drought

The war in Ukraine is going to cost the United Nations Children’s Fund at least $12 million in additional costs to purchase therapy for malnourished kids in the Horn of Africa, Christiane Rudert, UNICEF regional nutrition adviser for eastern and southern Africa, told Devex.

Currently, over 1.7 million children in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia are severely malnourished. Ready-to-use therapeutic food, or RUTF, an energy-dense, nutrient-fortified food, costs about $100 for a course to treat extremely malnourished children but the price is expected to increase by 16% over the next six months.

Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s top agricultural producers and exporters, but supply lines are blocked due to the war. Globally, food, fuel, and fertilizer shortages, coupled with inflation, are rapidly hiking prices.

Lives at stake: The price of RUTF has already increased about $6 to $7 per carton, according to Rudert, because the costs of milk powder, flour, and oil have increased. Without an increase in funding, aid agencies are concerned hundreds of thousands of children won’t receive treatment.

This additional $12 million is for commodity prices, but the price of delivery from manufacturers to health facilities has also increased due to hikes in fuel costs.

Market volatility: The COVID-19 pandemic had already driven up costs in packaging, raw materials, and transportation costs. Because of the market volatility, manufacturers “require firm demand to inform current production,” Rudert said, adding that UNICEF needs flexible funding to ensure there is a pipeline of supply. The shortage in formula milk in high-income countries could have “a knock-on effect” on RUTF because one of the main ingredients is dried skimmed milk.

Globally, the Food and Agriculture Organization has said a prolonged disruption of food exports due to the war could lead to 8 million to 13 million undernourished people this year and next, many of which will be in Africa.


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