An estimated 10.4 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, and Yemen are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, UNICEF said.
In a statement, the UN agency said that the countries or regions are experiencing dire humanitarian crises, and further more are struggling with intensifying food insecurity, a deadly pandemic of COVID-19 and – with the exception of the Central Sahel – experiencing a looming famine.
“For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
“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,” Fore added.
The increase in acute malnutrition and food insecurity in household among children in Africa and Yemen is due to ongoing armed conflict and insecurity amid limited access to essential nutrition, water, sanitation, health care, and hygiene services, the statement said.
Furthermore, floods in some areas during 2020 have exacerbated the already considerable level of acute malnutrition among children.
UNICEF said in South Sudan, an estimated 7.3 million people – 60% of South Sudan’s population – are projected to be facing severe acute food insecurity in 2021, while an estimated 1.4 million children in the country are expected to experience acute malnutrition in 2021, what is regarded as the highest since 2013.
The number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition is also expected to rise from estimated 292,000 children in 2020 to more than 313,000 children in 2021.
Also, in the DRC, an estimated 3.3 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, including no less than 1 million children with severe acute malnutrition, according to the statement.