More than 10 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said. All of these countries and regions are experiencing "dire humanitarian crises", while also fighting with intensifying food insecurity, the coronavirus pandemic and, except the Central Sahel, "a looming famine", the Unicef said in a statement on Wednesday.
"For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, Covid-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe," Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
"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," she added.
Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition. Children suffering from acute malnutrition have very low weight for their height and severe muscle wasting.
Malnutrition is a major cause of death in children under the age of five, and its prevention and treatment are critical to child survival and development.
Through 2020, despite Covid-19 challenges, Unicef and its partners continued to deliver lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable children and their families in the hardest to reach areas through adjustments on the existing programs to maintain and increase access.
With the situation feared to worsen in 2021, Unicef called on humanitarian actors on the ground in these countries as well as 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 $1 billion to support its lifesaving nutrition programs for children in countries affected by humanitarian crises over 2021.