People's Stories Children's Rights

Humanitarian leaders call on global donors to fund nutrition crisis
by IRC, World Vision, Action Against Hunger, agencies
The International Rescue Committee, together with CARE, 1,000 Days, HarvestPlus, Bread for the World, RESULTS Canada, KANCO, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children, World Vision, Action Against Hunger, and the Eleanor Crook Foundation endorse the following statement on World Food Day:
The Covid-19 pandemic, and its disruption to health and economic systems, is driving higher rates of a severe form of malnutrition. Urgent action is needed to save children’s lives and avert increased acute malnutrition and hunger during the pandemic and beyond. Global donors must increase their commitment to nutrition.
Year after year, over seven percent of the world’s children under age 5 – approximately 47 million children in 2019 - -- suffer from a dangerous form of malnutrition referred to as acute malnutrition, or wasting. This form of malnutrition can increase mortality risk up to 11x that of a healthy child.
Covid-19 is driving rates of malnutrition up. World hunger is projected to rise to an additional 132 million people this year as a result of the pandemic, and acute malnutrition itself is projected to rise 14 percent- bringing the number of children under age 5 with acute malnutrition to 54 million.
In four conflict-affected settings, the crisis is even more grave: Yemen, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Northeast Nigeria are experiencing crisis-level food insecurity and acute malnutrition. The United Nations has recently warned that the situation in these countries is likely to worsen unless immediate action is taken.
This stark increase in malnutrition, and the growing complexity of the hunger and nutrition landscape, threatens decades of progress to reduce child mortality.
Global progress on acute malnutrition has taken place slowly over the last twenty five years. Efforts to reach these children with life-saving treatment, called therapeutic foods, have been painfully slow, with only twenty percent of children needing treatment accessing it.
Therapeutic foods were first developed in 1996, and yet remain widely unavailable to children in need. Prevention efforts like vitamin A supplementation and breastfeeding promotion must also be scaled up.
However, innovations in recent years have brought new hope for malnourished children.
New research into different approaches for treatment- including delivery by community health workers, and a simpler, more efficient treatment protocol- offer the promise of reaching more children, and stretching every dollar further.
Recognizing the need for progress, last year United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres convened the leadership of United Nations agencies, and collectively they produced and agreed to an ambitious set of goals, released earlier this year as the Global Action Plan on Wasting.
This commitment to accelerate progress- including scaling treatment to reach 50 percent more children - is paired with a commitment from the World Health Organization to review its guidelines on wasting, potentially paving the way for wider use of new approaches and innovations.
However, much remains to be done to reach the ambitious targets committed to in the Global Action Plan. United Nations agencies and national governments alike must maintain and increase resources for health systems- including investing in critical areas which are important for closing equity gaps and ensuring that every child can access the treatment they need.
Severe funding gaps
Despite the depth and severity of the needs, global nutrition efforts remain deeply underfunded. UN agency heads have indicated that $2.4 billion in additional investment is needed to truly protect children by preventing and treating acute malnutrition.
This would support a full package of nutrition interventions - scaling up access to treatment, expanding prevention efforts like vitamin A supplementation, and promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding.
The most essential programming for nutrition response to the pandemic are outlined in the United Nations’ Global Humanitarian Response Plan. This plan has requested $247 million for essential nutrition response: to date, only three percent- approximately $7.7 million- has been funded.
Donors must commit to meeting the needs of these children
This World Food Day, we are calling attention to the deep, and increasing, need for nutrition funding. To avert increased child mortality due to increased acute malnutrition and hunger during the pandemic and beyond, global donors need to increase their commitment to nutrition.
Funding commitments to nutrition should be increased immediately through fulfillment of the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan. And over the long-term, donors need to significantly increase long term funding commitments to nutrition: global donors should make strong commitments to address nutrition needs at next year’s Nutrition for Growth summit, including a doubling for nutrition-specific interventions like acute malnutrition treatment.
Covid-19 has stressed countries’ finances across the globe, but we cannot let millions more children suffer hunger, malnutrition, and even death, because of the pandemic.
Dec. 2020
As 2021 approaches, UNICEF is deeply concerned for the health and well-being of over 10 million children projected to suffer from acute malnutrition next year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen.
These are all countries or regions experiencing dire humanitarian crises while also grappling with intensifying food insecurity, a deadly pandemic and potential famine.
“COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe,” said UNICEF. “Families already struggling to feed their children and themselves are now on the brink of famine. We can’t let them be the forgotten victims of 2020.”
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an estimated 3.3 million children under five will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, including at least 1 million with severe acute malnutrition. These alarming figures are due to ongoing insecurity, the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and limited access to essential services for vulnerable children and families.
In northeast Nigeria, more than 800,000 children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, including nearly 300,000 with severe acute malnutrition who are at imminent risk of death.
In the northwest of the country, the nutrition situation is even more dire. Kebbi State is experiencing a chronic malnutrition rate of 66 per cent, more than 20 per cent higher than Borno State in the northeast. In Sokoto State, also in Nigeria’s northwest, close to 18 per cent of children suffer from wasting and 6.5 per cent suffer from severe wasting.
In South Sudan, The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released earlier this month indicated a further deterioration of food security, with almost 7.3 million people – 60 per cent of the population – expected to be facing severe acute food insecurity in 2021. An estimated 1.4 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, the highest since 2013. Meanwhile, the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition is expected to increase from about 292,000 children this year to over 313,000 children in 2021.
The increase in household food insecurity and acute malnutrition among children is attributed to ongoing conflict and insecurity, and limited access to essential nutrition, health care and water, sanitation and hygiene services. Flooding in some areas in 2020 has exacerbated the already high level of acute malnutrition among children.
In the Central Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, intensifying conflict, displacement and climate shocks will leave an estimated 5.4 million people struggling to meet their daily food needs during the next lean season. Acute food insecurity has increased by 167 per cent in Burkina Faso, 34 per cent in Mali and 39 per cent in Niger, compared with the five-year average.
The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition could rise by 21 per cent. This would bring the total number of malnourished children in the three countries to a staggering 2.9 million, including 890,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Across Yemen, over 2 million children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition, including nearly 358,000 with severe malnutrition – a number that is expected to rise. In 133 districts in southern Yemen, home to 1.4 million children under five, recent analysis reveals a near 10 per cent increase in children with acute malnutrition between January and October 2020. This includes a more than 15 per cent increase – nearly 100,000 children – in cases of severe acute malnutrition. A similar analysis is being finalized for northern Yemen and alarming results are expected there as well.
In all these countries and beyond, UNICEF is urging humanitarian actors on the ground and the international community to urgently expand access to and support for nutrition, health and water and sanitation services for children and families.
UNICEF has appealed for more than US$1 billion to support its lifesaving nutrition programmes for children in countries affected by humanitarian crises over 2021.
Nov. 2020
Malnutrition surges among young children in Yemen. (FAO UNICEF WFP)
Acute malnutrition rates among children under five are the highest ever recorded in parts of Yemen, with more than half a million cases in southern districts, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Malnutrition analysis released today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners.
The analysis – which is for 133 districts in southern parts of Yemen only, home to 1.4 million children under five – reveals a near 10 percent increase in cases of acute malnutrition in 2020. The greatest increase is in cases of young children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) with a 15.5 percent rise during 2020. This leaves at least 98,000 children under five at high risk of dying without urgent treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
A dangerous combination of factors, driven by conflict and economic decline, compound the situation for Yemen’s youngest children. In the worst hit areas around one in five children are acutely malnourished. In Hodeidah’s lowlands, more than one in four or 27% of children are acutely malnourished.
At least a quarter of a million pregnant or breastfeeding women are also in need of treatment for malnutrition. UN experts warn the actual number is likely higher as the drivers of malnutrition in Yemen have worsened in 2020.
Yemen has long battled with some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Until now, humanitarian interventions to treat and prevent malnutrition, as well as provide emergency food assistance, have prevented an even more severe deterioration. But in 2020, these hard-won gains are being lost.
Escalating conflict and economic decline, plus the overwhelming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has pushed an already exhausted population to the brink. Add to this, many aid projects including emergency food assistance and WASH services have been disrupted by funding shortfalls. Malnutrition treatment programmes are also at risk if additional funds are not received soon.
These factors come on top of drivers that have historically made Yemen one of the hardest places to be a child or mother: insufficient and poor-quality diet; high prevalence of communicable diseases; elevated levels of food insecurity, limited access to nutrition and health services, poor sanitation and hygiene; and inability of many children to access to important vaccines, like measles and polio.
“We’ve been warning since July that Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food security crisis. If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” said Ms. Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “The data we are releasing today confirms that acute malnutrition among children is hitting the highest levels we have seen since the war started.”

Visit the related web page

World is facing an Education Emergency
by Save Our Future, Education Cannot Wait, agencies
Oct. 2020
Save Our Future: Averting an Education Catastrophe for the World’s Children
Ninety percent of students in all countries and continents -- nearly 1.6 billion school children and youth -- had their education disrupted at the height of pandemic lockdowns, marking the greatest disruption of education in history.
With the catalytic impact education has across health, jobs, income growth, climate change, poverty reduction, and social justice, the next generation faces devastating consequences if this education emergency is not addressed.
Despite the dire and known social and economic impacts of this fast-growing education emergency, there is imminent risk that governments will deprioritize investments in education as they make short-term fiscal responses to the pandemic.
This means that low and lower-middle-income countries are facing an annual financing gap of about $200 billion.
If governments and development partners do not invest in education urgently, this crisis could turn into a catastrophe from which millions of children may never recover, particularly marginalized vulnerable children and adolescents, including refugees, girls, and children with disabilities.
90% of children in the world have had their education interrupted due to COVID-19. This means that vulnerable children are missing out not only on education but also on vital services such as nutrition and health.
These COVID-19 impacts are hitting an education system that was already in crisis: even before the pandemic more than half of 10-year-olds in low and middle-income countries were not learning to read a simple text.
A new briefing paper from the Save Our Future Global Coalition, issued as part of the Save Our Future campaign, highlights priority actions to deliver changes in the coming 6-24 months in order to avert an education catastrophe.
In light of the scale of the crisis, the paper focuses primarily on education from pre-primary to secondary and in particular on those children who are most left behind, including children who live in locations where the vast majority of children are not learning, as well as children from marginalized groups. It includes children who are out of school and those who are enrolled in school but learning very little.
Save Our Future: Averting an Education Catastrophe for the World’s Children recommends that governments and the international community commit to:
Protecting education budgets and targeting budgets to those left furthest behind, Fully financing education as a key part of the COVID recovery, Improving coordination and use of evidence to ensure education funding achieves maximum impact. The future of an entire generation is at stake.
In addition, governments should also: Prioritize safely reopening schools, resume delivering vital services such as health and nutrition to children, and protect the education workforce, Transform education – making it more inclusive, engaging, and adaptive so that it can act as the engine of sustainable development desperately needed.
Strengthen the education workforce so that teachers and other professionals are equipped to enable learning and well-being for all children. Focus education technology where it is proven to be effective and most equitable and avoid the risk that technology continues to exacerbate inequality.
This is a defining moment for the world’s children and young people. The opportunity to reimagine and reboot education must be seized in bold ways, developing a new vision for children in the decade ahead. This cannot wait.
July 2020
Deep budget cuts to education and rising poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may force at least 9.7 million children out of school forever by the end of this year, with millions more falling behind in learning, Save the Children warns in a new report.
Girls are likely to be much worse affected than boys, with many forced into early marriage. As the impacts of the recession triggered by COVID-19 hits families, many children may be forced out of school and into labour markets.
In its report, Save the Children is calling for governments and donors to respond to this global education emergency by urgently investing in education as schools begin to reopen after months of lockdown.
The agency is also calling on commercial creditors to suspend debt repayments by low-income countries – a move that could free up $14bn for investment in education.
“It would be unconscionable to allow resources that are so desperately needed to keep alive the hope that comes with education to be diverted into debt repayments,” said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children.
The agency calls for governments to use their budgets to ensure children have access to distance learning whilst lockdown measures remain; and to support children who have fallen behind.
The Save Our Education report reveals the devastating effects the COVID-19 outbreak is set to have on learning. In a mid-range budget scenario, the agency estimates that the recession will leave a shortfall of $77 billion in education spending in some of the poorest countries in the world over the next 18 months.
In a worst-case scenario, under which governments shift resources from education to other COVID-19 response areas, that figure could climb to an astonishing $192 billion by the end of 2021.
The impending budget crunch comes after lockdown measures saw a peak of 1.6 billion children out of school, globally.
Ms Ashing said: “Around 10 million children may never return to school – this is an unprecedented education emergency and governments must urgently invest in learning. Instead we are at risk of unparalleled budget cuts which will see existing inequality explode between the rich and the poor, and between boys and girls. We know the poorest, most marginalised children who were already the furthest behind have suffered the greatest loss, with no access to distance learning - or any kind of education – for half an academic year.”
Before the outbreak, 258 million children and adolescents were already out of school. A Vulnerability Index in the report shows that in 12 countries, mainly in West and Central Africa but also including Yemen and Afghanistan, children are at extremely high risk of not returning to school after the lockdowns lift – especially girls.
In another 28 countries children are at moderate or high risk of not going back to school and of the longer-term effects of widening inequalities. In total, Save the Children estimates that some 9.7 million children could be forced out of school by the end of this year.
Currently, more than 1 billion children are out of school due to the global pandemic. Aisha*, 15, from Ethiopia is one of them:
“Three months ago, things were very good for me. I was enjoying school in grade six. When we were in school, we used to play with our friends and learn. The school also used to provide us with a meal every day. Now after this virus, I can’t go to school, and I can’t see my friends. I miss my school and my friends so much.
“It has been nearly three months since schools were closed and like many of the children here, I spend most of my time looking after the livestock and I sometimes help my mother with household chores like cleaning and cooking.”
Many of the top-12 countries in the report’s index already have high out of school rates and a sharp divide in school attendance along wealth and gender lines. These factors are likely to be exacerbated by school closures, with girls and children from poverty-stricken families being hardest hit.
Children in these countries are also caught in a vicious cycle of risk: they face greater risks of being forced into child labour and, adolescent girls are especially at risk of gender-based violence, child marriage and teenage pregnancy, which increases the longer they are out of school.
The same risks directly impact their ability to return to school at all. Combined with the sharp decrease of education spending, the COVID-19 outbreak could be a cruel blow for millions of children.
In many countries, Save the Children has provided distance learning materials such as books and home learning kits to support learners during lockdown, working closely with governments and teachers to provide lessons and support through radio, television, phone, social media and messaging apps.
Despite the efforts of governments and organisations, over 500 million children had no access to distance learning, and many of the poorest children may not have literate parents who can help them. Having lost out on months of learning, many children will struggle to catch up, raising the likelihood of drop out.
Save the Children warns that school closures have meant much more than education loss for many children – taking away safe places where children can play with friends, have meals and access health services, including services for their mental health. Teachers are often front-line responders and protectors for children who might suffer from abuse at home. With school closures, these safeguards fall away.
Inger Ashing continued:
“If we allow this education crisis to unfold, the impact on children’s futures will be long lasting. The promise the world has made to ensure all children have access to a quality education by 2030, will be set back by years.”
“Governments should be putting the interests of children before the claims of creditors. Whether they live in a refugee camp in Syria, a conflict zone in Yemen, a crammed urban area, or remote rural village: all children have a right to learn, to develop, to build a better future than their parents might have had. Education is the basis for that, and we can’t afford to let COVID-19 get in the way.”
Save the Children urges governments and donors to ensure that out-of-school children have access to distance learning, and to protection services. Those who return to school should be able to do so in a safe and inclusive way, with access to school meals and health services. Learning assessments and catch up classes must be adapted so that children can make up for their lost learning.
To ensure this happens, Save the Children is calling for an increased funding of education, with $35 billion to be made available by the World Bank. National governments must make education a priority by producing and implementing COVID-19 education responses and recovery plans to ensure the most marginalised children are able to continue learning.
* 275-Strong world leaders’ group warns of tragic ‘COVID generation’ - Millions of children hit as education faces $150 billion of cuts:
July 2020
Saving Generation COVID, by Abiy Ahmed and Gordon Brown. (Education Cannot Wait)
The oft-repeated idea that COVID-19 is “the great equalizer” is a myth. There is no equality of suffering or equality of sacrifice during a pandemic that is disproportionately hurting the poorest and most vulnerable.
And while the health emergency has disproportionately harmed the elderly poor, the unprecedented education crisis caused by the pandemic is now hurting the poorest children hardest and creating a generation that will lose out on learning. Lockdowns and other social-distancing rules have forced schools all over the world to shut their doors, affecting a peak of nearly 1.6 billion children.
But while wealthier children have had access to alternatives, such as online learning, the poorest do not. The world’s least-advantaged children – for whom education offers the only escape route from poverty – have thus fallen further behind, placing the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030 even further out of reach.
Even before the pandemic, the world was falling short of this goal. Globally, nearly 260 million children were out of school, and 400 million dropped out after the age of 11. In some regions, such as rural Sub-Saharan Africa, few girls were completing secondary school, not least because of widespread child marriage.
Nearly 50 countries have no laws banning child marriage, and many more fail to enforce their bans. As a result, about 12 million school-age girls are forcibly married off each year.
When schools reopen, there is a good chance that many poor children will never return. Poverty is the biggest reason why children don’t attend school, and the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis will far outlast lockdowns, especially for the poorest people.
The likely result is that more children will be pushed into the ranks of the 152 million school-age children forced to work, as 14 countries still have not ratified the International Labor Organization’s minimum-age convention. And even more girls will be forced into early marriage.
When the West African Ebola epidemic that started in 2014 closed schools in Sierra Leone, the number of 15-19-year-old-girls who were pregnant or already mothers nearly doubled, rising from 30% to 65%. Most of these girls never returned to school.
With the right policies in place, economies will start to recover, jobs will slowly be restored, and social-protection policies will ease the poverty of the unemployed. But there is little protection against the effects of a foregone education, which can last a lifetime.
As it stands, more than half the world’s children – nearly 900 million boys and girls – are unable to read a simple text by age 10. That is 900 million children who do not receive the knowledge and skills needed to improve their economic lot as adults. If we do nothing to help “Generation COVID” make up for lost time, that figure could easily approach one billion or more. When schools in Kashmir closed for 14 weeks in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake, the most affected children lost the equivalent of 1.5 years of learning.
As the recently published UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report advises us, children who have fallen behind need the kind of catch-up programs that in Latin America have increased educational attainment by up to 18 months since the 1990s. But the needed support will cost money. Unless we bridge the gap in education funding, SDG4 will remain out of reach.
UNESCO estimates that before the COVID-19 crisis, 50 countries were failing to spend the recommended minimum of 4% of national income, or 15% of the public budget, on education. Inadequate funding from governments and donors has meant that many of the 30 million refugee and forcibly displaced children age out of education without ever setting foot in a classroom, despite the efforts of Education Cannot Wait and other groups.
Now, the pandemic is set to squeeze education budgets even further. As slower or negative growth undermines tax revenues, less money will be available for public services. When allocating limited funds, urgent lifesaving expenditure on health and social safety nets will take precedence, leaving education underfunded.
Likewise, intensifying fiscal pressure in developed countries will result in reductions in international development aid, including for education, which is already losing out to other priorities in the allocation of bilateral and multilateral aid. The World Bank now estimates that, over the next year, overall education spending in low- and middle-income countries could be $100-150 billion lower than previously planned.
This funding crisis will not resolve itself. The quickest way to free up resources for education is through debt relief. The 76 poorest countries must pay $106 billion in debt-service costs over the next two years. Creditors should forgive these payments, with a requirement that the money is reallocated to education, as well as health.
At the same time, multilateral financial institutions and regional development banks must increase their resources. The International Monetary Fund should issue $1.2 trillion in Special Drawing Rights (its global reserve asset), and channel these resources toward the countries that need them most.
The World Bank, for its part, should unlock more support by replenishing the International Development Association (or borrowing on the strength of it) for low-income countries, and by using guarantees and grants from willing aid donors, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which stand ready to unlock billions in extra finance for education in lower-middle-income countries through the International Finance Facility for Education.
In the next week, both NGOs and all international education organizations will begin “back to school” campaigns. Save Our Future, a new campaign launching in late July, advocates building back better, rather than restoring the pre-pandemic status quo. That means updating classrooms and transforming curricula, implementing effective technologies, and helping teachers offer personalized instruction.
Making schools safer (over 620 million children lack basic sanitation services at their schools, which particularly affects girls) and ensuring school meals (a lifeline for 370 million boys and girls) would also ease the effects of poverty and improve educational outcomes. Save the Children will add to this pressure with its own grassroots campaign focused on debt relief to pay for education.
But investing in schools is only part of the solution. In Sierra Leone, support networks for girls halved the dropout rate during the Ebola crisis. In Latin American, African, and Asian countries, conditional cash transfers have boosted school attendance. The latest Global Education Monitoring Report advocates implementing similar programs today.
Generation COVID has already suffered immensely. It is time for the international community to give children the opportunities they deserve. Even when faced with momentous challenges, we must remain committed to making ours the first generation in history in which every child is in school and learning. Both national governments and the international community must now step up collective efforts to achieve that goal.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook