In the call to action, four UN agencies warned that growing malnutrition due to the Covid-19 pandemic would have long-term consequences, transforming individual tragedies into a generational catastrophe.
More than 550,000 additional children each month are being struck by what is called wasting, or malnutrition that manifests in spindly limbs and distended bellies, according to the UN. Wasting and stunting can permanently damage children physically and mentally.
“The food security effects of the Covid crisis are going to reflect many years from now,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, the WHO head of nutrition. “There is going to be a societal effect.”
The leaders of four international agencies — the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization — have called for at least $2.4 billion immediately to address global hunger.
But even more than lack of money, restrictions on movement have prevented families from seeking treatment, said Victor Aguayo, the head of UNICEF’s nutrition program.
“By having schools closed, by having primary health care services disrupted, by having nutritional programs dysfunctional, we are also creating harm,” Aguayo said. He cited as an example the near-global suspension of Vitamin A supplements, which are a crucial way to bolster developing immune systems.