The United Nations says immediate action is needed to save the lives of hungry children in Malawi.

On Monday, Per Engebak, the regional director of the United Nations Children's Fund increased UNICEF's food aid appeal by five times because of alarming increases in malnutrition in Malawi.

Mr. Engebak said tens of thousands of children under the age of five are at risk of malnutrition if they do not receive immediate assistance.

UNICEF's financial appeal has risen from $2.5 million to 13 million. Of that, Mr. Engebak says 9 million will be used for expanding therapeutic centers, providing nutrients to pregnant and lactating women, and deworming children.

On Saturday, Malawi's president declared a national disaster over the nation's food crisis caused by the worst drought in more than a decade.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters. AFP