World news brief: Investment in primary health care, record hunger in West and Central Africa, UNICEF emergency appeal

This warning came from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) on Universal Health Coverage Day – observed on Tuesday – who said without urgent action, “these gaps will only widen”.

The head of the health agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, emphasized that investment in robust health systems based on strong primary health services is “the most inclusive, equitable and cost-effective path towards universal health coverage”, defined as a situation where all people can access the health services they need, without financial difficulties.

Health systems that can respond to shocks such as the rapidly advancing climate emergency could avert millions of additional deaths each year, the WHO insisted.

In a political declaration last September, world leaders committed to redouble their efforts to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

The WHO said it is working with countries to reorient health systems towards a primary health approach “that can help deliver 90 percent of essential health services while saving 60 million lives by 2030”.

Record hunger in West and Central Africa: UN humanitarians

Food insecurity has continued to worsen in West and Central Africa, with the number of hungry people expected to reach a “staggering 49.5 million” by the middle of next year, UN humanitarian workers said on Tuesday.

“Acute hunger remains at record levels in the region, but the funding needed to respond is not keeping pace,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said regional director Margot Vandervelden, stressing that due to lack of funds WFP has been forced to cut back on life-saving aid to those in need.

Acute hunger in West and Central Africa is mainly driven by conflict, which has driven millions from their homes and farms, along with the climate crisis and high food and fuel prices.

More than two out of three households cannot afford healthy diets, the cost of which in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is 110 percent higher than the daily minimum wage.

Four out of five of the region’s youngest children do not consume the minimum number of food groups they need for optimal growth and development, warned WFP together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In the first ten months of 2023, 1.9 million children under the age of five were hospitalized for severe spillage in nine Sahel countries, representing a 20 percent increase from last year.

UNICEF launches $9.3 billion emergency funding appeal

In response to an alarming increase in humanitarian crises, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched an emergency appeal on Monday for $9.3 billion to reach at least 93.7 million children living in 155 countries.

Life-saving humanitarian aid will be essential in a world increasingly affected by brutal conflict, poverty, polarization and the effects of the climate crisis. the agency said in a press release.

UNICEF aims to reach around 147 million people overall with humanitarian assistance.

“Millions of children remain trapped in humanitarian crises growing in complexity and scopeand it increasingly stretches our resources to respond,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

“With predictable, flexible funding, UNICEF and partners can rapidly support children in need from the moment an emergency strikes, while preparing for future risks to save and improve lives.”

The $9.3 billion appeal underscores the urgency to tackle the rise in the multifaceted challenges facing children, UNICEF said.

In conflict zones, children endure the harsh realities of violence and displacement, and face daily threats of physical harm, emotional trauma, and the disruption of their education and essential services.

As children in areas affected by violence struggle with the wide-ranging impact on their well-being, they struggle with the psychological burden of instability and the increased risk of exploitation and abuse.

On Tuesday, the UN Population Fund, which champions sexual and reproductive health, launched a $1.2 billion humanitarian appeal to support 48 million people with reproductive health and gender-based violence services in 58 countries over the next year.

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