COVID-19 Causing Large, Tragic Child-Hunger Increases Worldwide; UN Sounding the Alarm

(EnviroNews World News) — The United Nations (UN) has sounded the alarm for developing countries all over the world. According to a study published on July 27, 2020 in The Lancet – a peer-reviewed medical journal, the toll for hunger and malnourishment over the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic will be 10,000 more child deaths each month and an additional 550,000 suffering every month from “wasting” — a hunger-related malady.

Wasting is characterized by malnourishment so severe that the belly becomes distended and the arms and legs become spindly. The ailment can have long-term physical and mental consequences. In some places, children are already suffering from coronavirus-related “stunting” — a condition where a child experiences permanently impaired growth and development due to malnutrition.

“The food security effects of the COVID crisis are going to reflect many years from now,” Dr. Francesco Branca, the World Health Organization (WHO) Head of Nutrition, told the Associated Press (AP). “There is going to be a societal effect.”

Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Market closures due to virus restrictions have devastated individuals who garden and sell what they grow to afford a more diverse and nourishing lineup of food. These “meager” farmers haven’t made enough money to stave off hunger now, much less been able to generate enough income for the coming winter. Movement restrictions have also made it more difficult for remote villages to get the medical help and food they need. Quarantine laws and movement restrictions have stymied relief efforts.

In Burkina Faso, about 12 million people in a population of 20 million don’t have enough to eat, and 20 percent of the children are chronically malnourished.

A video produced by the Associated Press in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting shows the grim reality on the ground as narration flows over heartbreaking imagery from Burkina Faso.

In February, before the virus hit Venezuela, a third of its population was already going hungry due to hyperinflation. Now, the country faces an influx of people returning from places, like Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, where they lost their jobs due to the virus.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan has seen a 13 percent increase in severe childhood malnutrition since January with over 780,000 cases, while travel restrictions prevented parents from taking their malnourished children to a hospital.

“Transportation between Kabul and the provinces was not allowed regularly and also people were afraid of coronavirus,” Nematullah Amiri, a specialist at Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Hospital, explained to the AP.

The United States is not immune to coronavirus’ effects on food distribution either. With most schools closed or partially closed, many children in lower income households have lost their most reliable source of food. The non-profit Feeding America says 18 million children in America will be facing food insecurity in 2020.

“The first line of defense against food insecurity is the school meals program, and we’ve never had a situation where you couldn’t go to school for months,” Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach told U.S. News and World Report. Schanzenbach is an economist and Director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

The WHO, UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the Food and Agriculture Organization are calling for $2.4 billion to alleviate the issue. Additionally, Victor Aguayo, the head of UNICEF’s nutrition program, is calling for restrictions on movement be lifted, so the resources can get to where they are needed.

“By having schools closed, by having primary health care services disrupted, by having nutritional programs dysfunctional, we are also creating harm,” Victor Aguayo, the head of UNICEF’s nutrition program, asserted to the AP.

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