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17 May 2022

Cook and television presenter Adam Liaw today becomes the face of a new worldwide video campaign for UNICEF to combat the growing malnutrition crisis affecting millions of children globally. 

In the YouTube video, which has been translated into multiple languages, the UNICEF Australia Nutrition Ambassador interviews a child, health worker, doctor and nutrition expert to explain how not eating enough, over-eating, and not getting sufficient nutrients, continue to be fatal for children around the globe.

The cookbook author was chosen to front the campaign due to his huge international following and passion for children’s nutrition.

“As a father of three, the malnutrition statistics are devastating. Extreme undernutrition, known as severe wasting, is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths of children under 5 around the world – that’s more than 1 million children a year. And because of conflict, climate change, and COVID-19, we’re on the brink of an even bigger global problem,” said Liaw.

“Dealing with malnutrition is not as simple as increasing or reducing food intake. It’s about taking targeted approaches to the range of issues that cause malnutrition, from food quality and quantity to lifestyle choices and availability of food. That’s why I’m proud to use my voice as a UNICEF Australia Nutrition Ambassador to inspire people to learn more about, and take action on, the malnutrition crisis.”

The video aims to break down misconceptions about the causes of malnutrition, showing how it affects children in different ways and in all countries. 

Even here in Australia, statistics show that:

  • about 1 in 3 young people aged 5 to 24 are either overweight or obese;
  • almost 95 per cent of children don’t meet the daily recommended intake of vegetables;
  • consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods is high in children aged 6–23 months; and
  • 1 in 3 children eat processed bread, biscuits or cake daily.

UNICEF Australia Deputy Director Libby Hodgson said: “Malnutrition is preventable but if left untreated, can turn common childhood illnesses into killer diseases. We want to see all children, including here in Australia, thriving from the outset with balanced, nutritious diets. 

“We are also thrilled that Adam, who has long been our Ambassador, has been chosen as the face of this important global campaign to help others better understand the malnutrition crisis and make a difference to children around the world.”

Liaw’s support could not come at a more critical time for children, as UNICEF also today issues a Child Alert warning on severe child wasting.

Released today, Severe wasting: An overlooked child survival emergency shows that in spite of rising levels of severe wasting in children and rising costs for life-saving treatment, global financing to save the lives of children suffering from wasting is also under threat. 

“Even before the war in Ukraine placed a strain on food security worldwide, conflict, climate shocks and COVID-19 were already wreaking havoc on families’ ability to feed their children. The world is rapidly becoming a virtual tinderbox of preventable child deaths and child suffering from wasting,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

To reach every child with life-saving treatment, UNICEF is calling on world leaders to boost investment in early prevention and treatment of severe wasting on a massive scale. 

Around the world, severe wasting:

  • affects at least 13.6 million children under the age of 5;
  • causes 1 in 5 deaths among children under the age of 5; 
  • was the primary factor in 367,000 deaths or more than half of pneumonia deaths in 2019; 
  • leaves a child 11 times more likely than a well-nourished child to die of common childhood illnesses;
  • has increased by 40 per cent in some countries, such as Uganda, since 2016; 
  • affects 7.7 million children, or about 1 in 22 children, in South Asia, considered the ‘epicentre’ of this form of malnutrition; 
  • affects 1.7 million children on the brink of death in the Horn of Africa as a result of three consecutive failed rains; and
  • is projected to affect a record 1.1 million children in Afghanistan this year, double the 2018 figure.