By Staff reporter

International aid agency World Vision yesterday warned that over 19 million people, including 10 million children, were at risk of famine in 12 of the world’s most fragile countries due to a deadly mix of conflict, the economic impacts of COVID -19 and climate-related natural disasters.

The non-governmental organisation fears that if the international community does not increase funding to meet urgent food needs in these and other fragile contexts, millions could die. Only around 29% of the budget needed to prevent potential famine has been received so far.

Andrew Morley, World Vision International President and chief executive officer, said: “Children across the world face devastating hunger every single day. The signs are clear to see. A number of countries are at risk of being plunged into famine situations. We need funds to support children across the world and we need them right now.”

Countries that were dealing with crises such as conflict before the COVID-19 pandemic are at the greatest risk of famine. Democratic Republic of Congo, a country mired in conflict for decades, now has 5,7 million people at risk of starvation. This represents a 77% increase when compared to 2019.

“COVID-19 is one more shock for the most vulnerable children living in fragile contexts who face multiple crises, including armed conflict, which deeply affect their access to nutritious food.”

“Restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the virus continue to hit the incomes of poor families the hardest, meaning they don’t have enough money to purchase food. Conflict and COVID-19 are a disastrous combination, making it incredibly difficult to get help to the children and families who need it most. There is no social welfare safety net to support these people and that’s why the international community must urgently step up,” Morley said.

Acute hunger has been climbing for the past four years, reaching a peak of 135 million in 2019 due to a deadly mix of conflict and increased climate and economic shocks COVID-19 has pushed this trend into overdrive. In April 2020 the Head of the World Food Programme warned that the number of people facing acute hunger could double due to COVID-19. World Vision is extremely concerned by the fact that the numbers of people facing starvation and severe malnutrition in the countries we refer to has increased by 50% in one year.

“We are facing an imminent crisis children of the world need us now. The number of children at risk of famine because they cannot access nutritious food has increased by 50% in one year. We must stop at nothing to prevent a potential famine that could rob them of a future and their God-given potential,” Morley said.

World Vision Zimbabwe country director Emmanuel Isch said that in addition to food assistance provided to six districts courtesy of support from the World Food Programme, they had also expanded their focus on food and nutrition security interventions across the country.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Vision Zimbabwe has reached over 53 000 mothers and caregivers with messaging and counselling on Infant and Young Child Feeding through community health workers, emphasizing the importance of giving children four-star diet meals to ensure they have access to a variety of nutrients for optimum growth and development.

“In addition to Food Assistance we want to recognise the work done by various partners with the establishment of nutrition gardens and other activities which are a key source of diverse food, ensuring individuals have access to a balanced diet and better nutrition overall. In partnership with the World Food Programme in 2020 we established and rehabilitated 16 nutrition gardens to complement dietary requirements in the communities we are serving. Children are already enjoying fruits such as bananas and paw paws while citrus and avocado trees have been planted,” he said.

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