COVID-19: 86m children risk poverty, malnutrition –Study

* Millions struggle to afford basic foodstuffs in Kenya, Nigeria, S’Africa, others ─UN WFP

* We can prevent, contain virus threatening poorest countries, vulnerable children ─Group

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

At the risk of worsening poverty and malnutrition over the distressing economic consequences of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are as many as 86 million more children by the end of 2020, a joint study by Save the Children and UNICEF has revealed.

The two agencies in statement Wednesday, May 27, 2020, said that it would bring the total number of children affected by poverty to 672 million worldwide.

Save the Children and UNICEF in the statement, stressed that the latest figure was a 15 percent increase over last year.

Nearly two-thirds of those children overall live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

However, the pandemic-driven increase is expected to occur mainly in Europe and Central Asia, according to the study.

The findings, the study says, was based on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections and population data from some 100 countries.

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, is quoted to have said in the statement.

“The scale and depth of financial hardship among families threatens to roll back years of progress in reducing child poverty and to leave children deprived of essential services,” Fore stated.

Inger Ashing, Head, Save the Children also said that with immediate and decisive action, “we can prevent and contain the pandemic threat facing the poorest countries and some of the most vulnerable children.”

They are “highly vulnerable to even short periods of hunger and malnutrition — potentially affecting them for their whole life,” she warns stakeholders in the statement.

The organisations, however, call on governments to rapidly expand their social security systems and school feeding to limit the effects of the pandemic on the vulnerable populations.

UN WFP on Food Crisis

Millions of Africans are said to have joined the list of those struggling to afford basic foodstuffs as efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 upend livelihoods from Ivory Coast to Kenya, Nigeria to South Africa.

Bloomberg reports that the United Nations’ World Food Programme estimates the number of people globally classed as acutely food insecure will double this year to about 265 million as the pandemic batters economies. The majority of them are likely to be in Africa.

Efforts are underway by state authorities, NGOs and international agencies, such as the WFP to provide food across the continent, in the knowledge that weaker government-support systems may increase the risk of a poverty boom when compared with Europe and North America. Yet the huge demand means the push is already showing signs of strain.

The Coronavirus crisis could put a third of Africa’s 300 million informal jobs in jeopardy as countries impose lockdowns, with an associated ban on work deemed by governments to be non-essential, according to McKinsey & Co.

Restrictions on the transportation of goods have depleted stocks and increased the price of food in many urban areas.

Report chool closures have meant that millions of children who typically rely on state feeding plans are left at risk of malnutrition.

On food crisis, Coronavirus is compounding acute food insecurity brought about by conflicts, extreme weather, pests or health issues

“African people are missing income to buy food,” said David Laborde, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

“We are dealing with a size of the number of poor people in Africa that we’ve never seen before.

“You are losing your income if you are urban poor and the price of food is increasing, so you are trapped between the rock and the hard place.”

In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the distribution of smuggled rice seized at the country’s land borders, while in Kenya, thousands of vulnerable households have been granted weekly cash stipends to sustain them during the pandemic.

In West Africa, which accounts for more than a third of all Coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of those in need of food assistance may double to 43 million in the next six months, the WFP has warned.

In Ghana, the region’s second-largest economy, there have been widespread reports of food packages of such poor quality they have been left uneaten.

“Many, including myself, could not use the rice because there were stones in it and the beans had insects in them too,” said Grace Kai Ashong, 61, who lives with her four children and eight grandchildren in the poor and densely populated community of Bukom, a coastal suburb of the capital, Accra.

“This is all we had from government for the three-week lockdown period,” she said.

“We did not crave for more as many of us felt insulted by the type of food they brought to us.”

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