More than 10 million children in Africa will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, UNICEF warns

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UNICEF warns that the figures could increase if urgent actions are not taken

Four countries and a region of Africa are experiencing serious humanitarian crises that will cause 10.4 million children to suffer acute malnutrition in 2021 due to food shortages, the pandemic and an imminent famine, the United Nations Fund for the Childhood (UNICEF).

Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeastern Nigeria, the Central Sahel region, South Sudan and Yemen are “countries suffering the consequences of conflict, disasters and climate change”, and in which “COVID-19 has become a nutritional crisis in imminent catastrophe “, lamented the executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore.

In this sense, “the families that already faced difficulties to feed themselves are now on the brink of famine. We cannot allow them to be the forgotten victims of 2020,” urged Fore, who has urged humanitarian actors on the ground and the community to urgently expand access and support to nutrition, health, and water and sanitation services for children and families.

To this end, UNICEF has appealed for more than one billion dollars (about 813 million euros) to support child nutrition programs in countries affected by humanitarian crises during 2021.

ALARMING INCREASE IN ACUTE MALNUTRITION FIGURES
Some 3.3 million children under the age of five will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to UNICEF figures, of whom at least one million will suffer from severe acute malnutrition due to the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID pandemic -19 and limited access to essential services for vulnerable children and families.

On the other hand, in northeastern Nigeria, it is estimated that more than 800,000 children will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, including almost 300,000 will be cases of severe acute malnutrition, which will carry an imminent risk of death.

While the nutritional situation in the northwest of the country is even more serious. Kebbi State is experiencing a 66 percent chronic malnutrition rate, more than 20 percent higher than Borno State in the northeast. About 18 percent of children in Sokoto state are wasted and 6.5 percent are severely wasted.

Also in South Sudan there has been a deterioration in food security and an estimated 1.4 million children will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, the highest number since 2013, while the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition will increase by some 292,000 children this 2020 to more than 313,000 in 2021.

The causes for this increase are attributed to the current conflict and insecurity, as well as limited access to essential nutrition, health care, water, hygiene and sanitation services, to which are added the consequences derived from the floods in some areas.

In the Central Sahel region, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and the intensification of conflict, displacement and the climate crisis will cause acute malnutrition to affect children 21 percent more in 2021, leading to 2.9 million children malnourished in all three countries.

Acute food insecurity figures have risen sharply in these countries, specifically 167 percent in Burkina Faso, 34 percent in Mali and 39 percent in Niger.

Finally, in Yemen, more than 2 million children under the age of five already suffer from acute malnutrition, including about 358,000 with severe malnutrition, and the number is expected to increase, by as much as 15 percent.

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