Publish: 15 Dec 2020, 11:00 am
Economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have set back decades of progress against the most extreme types of malnutrition and are likely to kill 168,000 children before any global recovery takes place, according to a report released Monday by 30 international organisations.
The Study of the Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium builds on the economic and nutritional data collected this year as well as on focused telephone surveys. Saskia Osendarp, who led the study, reports that an additional 11,9 million children—most in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—will suffer from stunting and wasting, the most serious types of malnutrition, reports UNB.
Women who are pregnant now “will deliver children who are already malnourished at birth, and these children are disadvantaged from the very start,” said Osendarp, executive director of the Micronutrient Forum. “An entire generation is at stake.”
The fight against malnutrition had been an unheralded global success until the coronavirus pandemic struck.
“It may seem like it’s a problem that is always with us but the numbers were going down prior to COVID,” said Lawrence Haddad, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. “Ten years of progress eliminated in 9 to 10 months.”
Before the pandemic, the number of stunted children decreased globally every year, from 199.5 million in 2000 to 144 million in 2019. The number of children suffering from loss in 2010 was 54 million, down to 47 million last year. It is expected to grow again to 2010 levels, according to the report.
The research was launched at the beginning of a year-long campaign to raise money against malnutrition. Approximately 3 billion has been announced, although some of this includes previous commitments. Pakistan, which has some of the most severe hunger in the world, vowed to invest $2.2 billion by 2025.
The consortium comprises the World Bank, the World Food Programme, UNICEF and USAID, as well as private health foundations and universities. UNICEF has promised to spend $700 million annually on nutrition programs over the next five years, $224 million more than it has invested over the last five years.
Haddad said the next move is to keep governments accountable for their commitments, particularly those whose people suffer most from malnutrition.
“A lot of hunger is about governance,” he said. He added that the pandemic makes the benefits of nutrition clear, because malnutrition leaves the body vulnerable to all kinds of disease, including coronavirus. “Nutrition is everyone’s best bet until the vaccine arrives.”
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