COVID Economy Causing Famine

When some of us talk about balancing the risks of Coronavirus with the negative implications of shutting down our economy, these are the kinds of things we are trying to prevent. Far more people are going to die from the economic shutdowns than will ever die from COVID-19. But please, tell me how you care about the kids.

All around the world, the coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, cutting off meager farms from markets and isolating villages from food and medical aid. Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations shared with The Associated Press ahead of its publication in the Lancet medical journal.

Further, 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, transforming individual tragedies into a generational catastrophe.

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The rise in child deaths worldwide would reverse global progress for the first time in decades. Deaths of children younger than 5 had declined steadily since 1980, to 5.3 million around the world in 2018, according to a UNICEF report. About 45 percent of the deaths were due to undernutrition.

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“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.

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Some of the worst hunger still occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sudan, 9.6 million people are living from one meal to the next in acute food insecurity — 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. The global economic downturn has brought supply chains to a standstill, and restrictions on public transport have disrupted agricultural production. 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.