The impact of Covid will kill an extra 258 children a day from malnutrition, according to a report in Nature Food. Added to the current malnutrition-related death toll of 6,800, it brings the figure to 7,058 deaths a day.
UNICEF estimates that in 2019 half of all child deaths were from malnutrition – amounting to 2.6 million under-fives. Annually, Covid has created an additional 283,000 malnutrition-related child deaths.
Despite this, projections suggest official development assistance for nutrition programmes will not return to 2019 levels until 2030.
Across 63 countries, half the population will not be able to afford half the cost of a healthy diet. The research was published by the consortium Standing Together for Nutrition.
Dr Saskia de Pee, of the UN World Food Programme, said loss of income coupled with high food prices left the vulnerable unable to eat properly.
She said children, adolescent girls and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in particular need help.
“The impact on young children has turned back the clock by at least ten years”
Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of GAIN and ST4N co-convenor, said, “The economic downturn has meant that the poorest have become even poorer and the number of people struggling to access nutritious food is increasing every day.
“The impact on young children’s lives has turned back the nutrition clock by at least ten years.
“It threatens to child’s trajectory, making them less likely to survive the next illness, less likely to do well in school and more likely to live in poverty as adults.”
Dr Saskia Osendarp, Executive Director of Micronutrient Forum and ST4N co-convenor, said, “An additional 13.6 million children are at risk of becoming acutely malnourished, and 3.6 million more children may be stunted in 2022.
“Like in any crisis, women and children are disproportionally affected.”