UNICEF expects that 10.4 million children will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021 due to prolonged conflicts, internal displacement and the coronavirus pandemic.
As the pandemic deepens, acute food insecurity in poor countries is leaving millions of children at risk of famine..
According to a report published by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), nearly 10.4 million children are on the brink of acute malnutrition and famine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen.
The report says that, “all countries or regions experiencing dire humanitarian crises while also grappling with intensifying food insecurity, a deadly pandemic and, with the exception of the Central Sahel, a looming famine.”
“The impacts of this pandemic will be felt for years to come, but it’s already clear that Covid-19 has exacerbated poverty and inequality in conflict-affected countries, adding massive pressure to already overwhelmed social and health systems,” the report said.
As a result, there are more families without homes and many cannot afford even the most basic needs of food and water.
The report also underlined the workings of UNICEF on the ground which aim to minimise “the impact of a downward spiral that is jeopardizing children’s development” by providing the basis of recovery and a second chance for them.
UNICEF is trying to take measures to facilitate young child feeding, counselling, growth monitoring and vaccinations.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. About 3.3 million children under five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021.
When it comes to Yemen, the war-torn country remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Because of a prolonged civil war, the country’s economic and health systems have collapsed leaving 12.4 million children in need of humanitarian assistance, with around 358,000 children severely malnourished.
The pandemic has dried up earning opportunities as health services have been stretched to their limits and travel restrictions have compromised access to markets.
In 2021, the UNICEF plans to reach more than 289,000 severely malnourished children under five years old by providing medical treatment in Yemen. It also has further plans to establish water, hygiene, sanitation and health systems.
Displacement from conflicts in the Central Sahel region, of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and climate shocks have increased food insecurity. Approximately, 5.4 million people will struggle to meet their daily food needs in the coming year.
In these three countries, the number of malnourished children could go as high as 2.9 million, including 890,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition, the UNICEF estimates.
South Sudan is another country in crisis where 1.4 million children are expected to suffer from malnutrition next year, marking its highest point since 2013.
UNICEF also aims to provide treatment to more than 270,000 children, who are on the brink of famine, by assisting with food and vitamin A programs.
There are also more than 800,000 children expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in Nigeria where armed conflicts continue.