The United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that an additional 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from wasting world wide in 2020 as a result of the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF says in an analysis published in The Lancet that 80% of these children would be from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia while Over half would be from South Asia alone.
Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director said that the repercussions the deadly corona virus are causing more harm on children than the disease itself.
“It’s been seven months since the first COVID-19 cases were reported and it is increasingly clear that the repercussions of the pandemic are causing more harm to children than the disease itself,” Henrietta said.
According to Henrietta, these repercussions have caused food insecurity in many parts of the world thus increased food prices which has resulted into low quality of the diet given to children likely to cause malnourishment among them.
“Household poverty and food insecurity rates have increased. Essential nutrition services and supply chains have been disrupted. Food prices have soared. As a result, the quality of children’s diets has gone down and malnutrition rates will go up.” she added.
Wasting is a life-threatening form of malnutrition, which makes children too thin and weak, and puts them at greater risk of dying, poor growth, development and learning.
UNICEF adds that 47 million children were already wasted in 2019 before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
It also warned that if any urgent action are not taken by governments of the countries and other stakeholders the global number of children suffering from wasting could reach almost 54 million over the course of the year. This would bring global wasting to levels not seen this millennium.
The Lancet analysis finds that the prevalence of wasting among children under the age of five in COVID-19 affected countries in the low and middle income countries could increase by 14.3 per cent increasing child malnutrition which would translate into over 10,000 additional child deaths per month with over 50 per cent of these deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
The estimated increase in child wasting is only the tip of the iceberg, UN agencies warn. COVID-19 will also increase other forms of malnutrition in children and women, including stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight and obesity as a result of poorer diets and the disruption of nutrition services.
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