The coronavirus pandemic could push an additional 10 million children into acute malnutrition, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The numbers of young children suffering from malnutrition – a life-threatening lack of the nutrients needed to grow and develop – could rise by 20 per cent as a result of the outbreak, the WFP said.
Already, one in four children under five years old globally experience stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, or around 151 million. Malnutrition is the cause of almost half of all deaths for under-fives.
Lauren Landis, WFP’s director of nutrition, said: “If we fail to act now, we’ll face devastating loss of life, health and productivity in future generations.
“Getting nutrition right today will determine whether the consequences of Covid-19 for children will be felt for months, years or even decades to come.”
On top of the fact that the virus is already tougher to deal with for small bodies weakened by poor nutrition, a combination of factors meant that the long-term impact on nutrition for the young would be very serious, the WFP said.
The lockdowns implemented by many countries have left vulnerable families relying on a daily wage or remittance unable to access what they need to survive, as well as potentially disrupting food supply chains globally. The pressures on already weak health systems in poorer countries, or places affected by conflict, could also see hungry, vulnerable children face even greater challenges getting access to a nutritious diet.
“Malnourished children, especially those under five years of age, are at risk of being among the primary victims of the pandemic and its socio-economic fallout,” the WFP said, calling for an additional, emergency $300m of funding to expand its programmes supporting 22m children under five and pregnant and nursing mothers globally.
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