Pandemic fallout will leave 6.7m children dangerously undernourished, Unicef warns

“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 said. 

The study found that roughly 80 per cent of children who become wasted due to the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where communities have been hard-hit by stringent lockdown measures.

But overall, the prevalence of wasting among young children could increase by 14 per cent across low and middle income countries this calendar year – equating to an additional 10,000 deaths a month. 

The report is the latest of a series of grim studies to warn that the pandemic will have devastating consequences on international development. 

According to Oxfam 122 million of the world’s poorest people could be plunged deeper into hunger and poverty due to mass unemployment, plummeting incomes and disruption to food production – while World Vision has estimated that eight million children have already been forced into begging and child labour. 

And earlier this month the United Nations’ under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowlock, said that the pandemic is set to trigger “a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than any of the direct health impacts of the virus” in low and middle income countries. 

The UN has called for $10.3 billion to prevent humanitarian disasters in 63 fragile countries, including  some $2bn to protect maternal and child nutrition this year. 

“Inaction will leave the virus free to circle the globe, it will undo decades of development and it will create a generation worth of tragic and exportable problems,” said Mr Lowcock. 

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