By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Lancet analysis has found that the prevalence of wasting among children under the age of five could increase by 14.3 per cent in low- and middle-income countries this year 2020, due to the socio-economic impacts of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Wasting is a life-threatening form of malnutrition which makes children too thin and weak, and puts them at a greater risk of dying, poor growth, development and learning, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
Elaborating on the Lancet study, UNICEF stressed that such an increase in child malnutrition would translate into over 10,000 additional child deaths per month with over 50 per cent of these deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
United Nations (UN) agencies therefore warned that the estimated increase in child wasting is only the tip of the iceberg, because COVID-19 will also increase other forms of malnutrition in children and women, including stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity as a result of poorer diets and the disruption of nutrition services.
.In a news statement dated 27th July 2020, UNICEF said its reports from the early months of the pandemic suggested a 30 per cent overall reduction in the coverage of essential – and often life-saving – nutrition services.
According to UNICEF, in some countries, these disruptions have reached 75 per cent to 100 per cent under lockdown measures.
“When the projected increase in wasting in each country is combined with a projected year average of 25 per cent reduction in nutrition services, there could be 128,605 additional deaths in children under the age of five over the year, according to the analysis,” UNICEF wrote in the news release.
The international authority on children’s well-being pointed out that in a commentary to The Lancet report, the heads of UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is undermining nutrition across the world particularly in low- and middle-income countries, with the worst consequences being borne by young children.
The heads of the four United Nations agencies appealled to governments, the public, donors and the private sector to protect children’s right to nutrition by
safeguarding access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets as a cornerstone of the response to COVID-19.
The UN organs also called on countries to protect food producers, processors and retailers, discourage trade bans and designate food markets as essential services.