UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, warns that some 10.4 million children – all in countries on the African continent with the exception of Yemen – face severe food insecurity and malnutrition in the coming year.
The affected nations include Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel nations and South Sudan.
“For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe,” said Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF executive director. “Families already struggling to feed their children and themselves are now on the brink of famine. We can’t let them be the forgotten victims of 2020.”
In DR Congo, a looming humanitarian disaster affects 3.3 million children under five who already experience an ongoing security crisis amid the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Nigeria, an estimated 300,000 of the 800,000 undernourished children face imminent risk of death, UNICEF said.
Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are likely to see a 21 percent increase in the number of children experiencing acute malnutrition, bringing the total in just those nations to 890,000 among the 2.9 million children who are malnourished. Burkina Faso alone has seen a 167 percent increase in food insecurity, even as the Sahel nations grapple with the rise in regional conflict, displacement and climate change impacts.
UNICEF says it has appealed for more than US$1 billion to support nutrition programs for children in countries affected by humanitarian crises in the coming year.
Image: USAID file