Hunger to kill 128K more children over pandemic’s first year

Hunger to kill 128K more children over pandemic’s first year

HOUNDE, Burkina Faso — Coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, killing an estimated 10,000 more young children a month as meagre farms are cut off from markets and villages are isolated from food and medical aid, the United Nations warned Monday.

In the call to action shared with The Associated Press ahead of publication, four U.N. agencies warned that growing malnutrition would have long-term consequences, transforming individual tragedies into a generational catastrophe.

Hunger is already stalking Haboue Solange Boue, an infant from Burkina Faso who lost half her former body weight of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) in just a month. Coronavirus restrictions closed the markets, and her family sold fewer vegetables. Her mother was too malnourished to nurse.

“My child,” Danssanin Lanizou whispered, choking back tears as she unwrapped a blanket to reveal her baby’s protruding ribs.

More than 550,000 additional children each month are being struck by what is called wasting, according to the U.N. — malnutrition that manifests in spindly limbs and distended bellies. Over a year, that’s up 6.7 million from last year’s total of 47 million. 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.”

_____

This story was produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

____

From Latin America to South Asia to sub-Saharan Africa, more poor families than ever are staring down a future without enough food. In April, World Food Program head David Beasley warned that the coronavirus economy would cause global famines “of biblical proportions” this year. There are different stages of what is known as food insecurity; famine is officially declared when, along with other measures, 30% of the population suffers from wasting.

The World Food Program estimated in February that one Venezuelan in three was already going hungry, as inflation rendered salaries nearly worthless and forced millions to flee abroad. Then the virus arrived.

“Every day we receive a malnourished child,” said Dr. Francisco Nieto, who works in a hospital in the border state of Tachira.

In May, Nieto recalled, after two months of quarantine, 18-month-old twins arrived with bodies bloated from malnutrition. The children’s mother was jobless and living with her own mother. She told the doctor she fed them only a simple drink made with boiled bananas.

“Not even a cracker? Some chicken?” he asked.

“Nothing,” the children’s grandmother responded. By the time the doctor saw them, it was too late: One boy died eight days later.

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.

In Afghanistan, movement restrictions prevent families from bringing their malnourished children to hospitals for food and aid just when they need it most. The Indira Gandhi hospital in the capital, Kabul, has seen only three or four malnourished children, said specialist Nematullah Amiri. Last year, there were 10 times as many.

Because the children don’t come in, there’s no way to know for certain the scale of the problem, but a recent study by Johns Hopkins University indicated an additional 13,000 Afghans younger than 5 could die.

Afghanistan is now in a red zone of hunger, with severe childhood malnutrition spiking from 690,000 in January to 780,000 — a 13% increase, according to UNICEF.

In Yemen, restrictions on movement have blocked aid distribution, along with the stalling of salaries and price hikes. The Arab world’s poorest country is suffering further from a fall in remittances and a drop in funding from humanitarian agencies.

Yemen is now on the brink of famine, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which uses surveys, satellite data and weather mapping to pinpoint places most in need.

Some of the worst hunger still occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sudan, 9.6 million people live from one meal to the next — a 65% increase from the same time last year.

Lockdowns across Sudanese provinces, as around the world, have dried up work and incomes for millions. With inflation hitting 136%, prices for basic goods have more than tripled.

“It has never been easy but now we are starving, eating grass, weeds, just plants from the earth,” said Ibrahim Youssef, director of the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in war-ravaged south Darfur.

Adam Haroun, an official in the Krinding camp in west Darfur, recorded nine deaths linked with malnutrition, otherwise a rare occurrence, over the past two months — five newborns and four older adults, he said.

Before the pandemic and lockdown, the Abdullah family ate three meals a day, sometimes with bread, or they’d add butter to porridge. Now they are down to just one meal of “millet porridge” — water mixed with grain. Zakaria Yehia Abdullah, a farmer now at Krinding, said the hunger is showing “in my children’s faces.”

“I don’t have the basics I need to survive,” said the 67-year-old, who who hasn’t worked the fields since April. “That means the 10 people counting on me can’t survive either.”

____

Hinnant reported from Paris. Contributors include Christine Armario in Bogota, Colombia; Fazel Rahman in Kabul, Afghanistan; Issa Mohammed in Al-Hanabiya, Yemen; and Isabel DeBre in Cairo.

Lori Hinnant And Sam Mednick, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The newly built Parkland Regional Library Services. (Photo Submitted)
Parkland Regional Library system moves into new offices in Lacombe

“Someone with a Parkland Library card can borrow from 350 libraries in Alberta,” Ron Sheppard

boating stock metro
New owners of public boat launch on Sylvan Lake plans opening for May 2021

The Launch at Sylvan Lake is located at 5220 Lakeshore Dr.

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday that11 more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,447. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

Indigenous people gather for a ceremony for Cindy Gladue held at the courthouse in Edmonton, Alta, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Bradley Barton, a 52-year-old long-haul truck driver from Ontario on trial for manslaughter, is accused of killing Gladue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
People stand in support of mother as new trial gets underway in death of Cindy Gladue

Bradley Barton, a long-haul truck driver from Ontario, will now be tried for manslaughter in the 2011 death

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Facebook/ The Open Door 24/7 Integrated Response Hub- Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin residents show support for 24/7 Integrated Response Hub

Wetaskiwin residents and City Council members showed support for Hub with positive signs.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Most Read