Malnutrition Rises in Pregnant Women in 12 At-Risk Countries

and the Syrian civil war. The UN report found that acute malnutrition among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers has increased by 25% in the past two years in 12 countries.

NAIROBI (AP) -- In 12 countries that have been hard hit by rising food costs, fueled by fighting in Ukraine, acute malnutrition has increased by 25% over the past two-years.

UNICEF released Tuesday's report on Tuesday, just before International Women's Day. It used surveys in 10 African countries and two Middle East countries that have been most affected by the crisis.

Low nutrition can cause weak immunity and complications in pregnancy and birth. In the past, some countries in sub-Saharan Africa had high rates of infant mortality due to complications.

The report estimates that 51 million children below two years of age are short due to malnutrition. Half of them become stunted in their first six months or during their pregnancy.

Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director, stated that if the international community does not take immediate action, the consequences could be devastating for future generations.

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According to the report, the number of affected girls and women has increased from 5.5million in 2020 to 6.9million in 2022 in Burkina Faso (Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali), Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan (Sudan, Yemen, Yemen, and Afghanistan), according to the report.

UNICEF recommends increasing nutrition assistance and providing fortifications to high-value basic foods like flour, cooking oils, and salt in order to reduce micronutrient deficiency.

Ensuring that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have access to nutrition services and supplements has also been recommended in the report.

Some of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa have high rates of teenage pregnancies and low attendance at prenatal clinics.

Faith Kanini, 28, who lives in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, told The Associated Press she cannot afford to attend the prenatal clinics although it is recommended.

"I pay cash for the few clinics that I have been to. It's expensive and I can't pay the NHIF (state-health) monthly premiums. I'm unemployed so I rely on my friends and family," the first-time mother to be said in a telephone interview.

Women in poor households are twice as likely to be underweight as those from the wealthiest households, according to the UNICEF report.

The report states that South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa remain the epicenter for the nutrition crisis among adolescents girls and young women. They are home to two thirds of all underweight girls and women globally and three fifths of anemia-prone adolescent women and girls.