A slide shows the theme of a speech delivered by Douglas James Noble, deputy representative of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund to China, at a webinar on June 10, 2020. [Photo courtesy of Diinsider and the UNICEF]
The COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread around the world poses serious challenges for children, especially those in Africa, according to an official of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Douglas James Noble, UNICEF deputy representative to China, said that, currently nearly 1.2 billion students in 150 countries remain affected by school closures amid lockdown designed to slow the spread of the disease.
Malnutrition is rising, as 369 million children across 143 countries are not getting the school meals they would normally rely on for a source of daily nutrition, he said.
Speaking at a webinar on Wednesday, Noble said UNICEF has expanded its Humanitarian Action for Children appeal to a target of US$1.6 billion to meet the growing needs of children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Africa accounts for 40% of the global appeal, reflecting the challenges and needs the continent is facing, and the challenges we predict they will be facing in months and years ahead," he said.
According to UNICEF statistics, West and Central Africa, home to only 11% of the world's children, account for 31% of global under-five deaths, 20% of global stunting, and 33% of out-of-school children. In the region, there are 23 million children in need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 4.9 million children aged under five years considered to be at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, nearly 17 million children were already in need of humanitarian assistance prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Poor rainfall leads to food insecurity, lack of access to clean water and severe malnutrition.
Noble said COVID-19 imposes huge pressure on an already strained system in many parts of Africa.
The impact of the pandemic on children included lower access to food and health services, shortages of vaccines and other essential drugs as transportation links shut down, as well as increased risk of child violence, adolescent pregnancies and school drop-outs by girls, etc.
To minimize the impact, UNICEF is taking measures to help African countries ensure availability of essential health and nutrition services, protect children in the most vulnerable circumstances, as well as expanding sustainable social protection programs, Noble said.
The webinar, on the theme of "Safeguarding Children's Health in Africa amid COVID-19," was organized by Development Innovation Insider (Diinsider).