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July 30, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Over 10,000 children are now dying each month due to the economic disruption that COVID-19 restrictions have imposed in Latin America, Southern Asia, and sub-Saharan African communities.
In those regions, families are faced with a stark future without enough food, according to a study published in The Lancet.
“The unprecedented global social and economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic poses grave risks to the nutritional status and survival of young children in low-income and middle-income countries,” according to the medical journal. “Of particular concern is an expected increase in child malnutrition, including wasting, due to steep declines in household incomes, changes in the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, and interruptions to health, nutrition, and social protection services.”
“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 in a press release.
“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,” added Fore.
“The parents of the children are without work,” explained Annelise Mirabal, who works with malnourished children in Maracaibo, Venezuela, in an AP report. “How are they going to feed their kids?”
In Burkina Faso one in five young children is chronically malnourished, and with food prices soaring, 12 million of the country’s 20 million residents don’t get enough to eat.
The AP report offers heartbreaking accounts of the devastating impact of coronavirus-related starvation:
Hunger is already stalking Haboue Solange Boue, an infant who has lost half her former body weight of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) in the last month. With the markets closed because of coronavirus restrictions, her family sold fewer vegetables. Her mother is too malnourished to nurse her.
“My child,” Danssanin Lanizou whispers, choking back tears as she unwraps a blanket to reveal her baby's protruding ribs. The infant whimpers soundlessly.
Lanizou's husband, Yakouaran Boue, used to sell onions to buy seeds and fertilizer, but then the markets closed. Even now, a 50-kilogram bag of onions sells for a dollar less, which means less seed to plant for next year.
“I'm worried that this year we won't have enough food to feed her,” he said, staring down at his daughter over his wife's shoulder. “I'm afraid she's going to die.”
“I don't have the basics I need to survive,” said Zakaria Yehia Abdullah, a farmer in West Darfur. Hunger is showing “in my children's faces.”
Famines of Biblical proportions
Shortly after the start of the coronavirus lockdowns around the globe earlier this year, the head of the United Nations food agency warned that a “hunger pandemic” would bring “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II,” according to NBC.
“I must warn you that if we don't prepare and act now — to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade — we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months,” World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council.
“Without urgent action, the global number of children suffering from wasting could reach almost 54 million over the course of the year,” according to UNICEF. “This would bring global wasting to levels not seen this millennium.”
Moreover, the U.N. says that beyond the alarming number of child deaths, childhood wasting due to malnutrition is just the “tip of the iceberg.”
For those who survive the current food shortages, childhood malnutrition could lead to a generation of adults with physical and mental impairments.
“We cannot allow children to be the overlooked victims of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the agency’s executive director. “We must simultaneously think both short and long term, so that we not only address the challenges posed by the pandemic and its secondary impacts on children, but also chart a brighter future for children and young people.”
UNICEF has issued a call to action, saying that “Humanitarian agencies immediately need USD $2.4 billion to protect maternal and child nutrition in the most vulnerable countries from now until the end of the year.”