Global surge in malnutrition threatens 10 million children

PHOTO CREDIT: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf

ROME – Coronavirus may push an additional 10 million of the world’s children into acute malnutrition, accounting for a potential increase by 20 per cent, according to estimates from The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Malnourished children, especially those under five years of age, are at risk due to the pandemic and its socio-economic fallout, and although the WFP is ready to scale up its response it has put out an urgent request of 300 million dollars to do so.

  Acute malnutrition is caused by inadequate food consumption or illness, or both, resulting in sudden weight loss that, if untreated, can lead to death.

  “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,” said WFP’s Director of Nutrition, Lauren Landis.

  The virus can have a devastating effect on small bodies that are already weak from poor nutrition. The pandemic is having what the WFP have described as a “ruinous effect on vulnerable families relying on a daily wage or a remittance,” and claim that this is exacerbated by lockdowns and movement restrictions that are undermining livelihoods, making it especially hard for families in poorer nations to afford a nutritious diet.

  The Global Nutrition Report from 2020 highlights the current state of inequalities, with stunting and wasting prevalent amongst the poorest communities.

  Twenty-two million children under the age of five and pregnant and nursing mothers rely on WFP to provide them with specialised food and micronutrients for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

  WFP is working with governments to monitor populations vulnerable to COVID-19, adapting nutrition support where required.