Additional 6.7 million children under 5 could suffer from wasting amid pandemic
Addis Ababa, July 29, 2020 (FBC) – An additional 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from wasting – and therefore become dangerously undernourished – in 2020 as a result of the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF warned today.
According to an analysis published in The Lancet, 80 per cent of these children would be from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Over half would be from South Asia alone.
“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,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“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.
According to UNICEF, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 million children were already wasted in 2019. Without urgent action, the global number of children suffering from wasting could reach almost 54 million over the course of the year.
The Lancet analysis finds that the prevalence of wasting among children under the age of five could increase by 14.3 per cent in low- and middle-income countries this year, due to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.
Such an increase in child malnutrition 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.
Over 250 million children globally are missing the full benefits of vitamin A supplementation due to COVID-19.