Nearly half of all child deaths in Africa stem from hunger, study shows

Almost 60 million children deprived of food despite continent’s economic growth, in what is ‘fundamentally a political problem’

One in three African children are stunted and hunger accounts for almost half of all child deaths across the continent, an Addis Ababa-based thinktank has warned.

In an urgent call for action, a study by the African Child Policy Forum said that nearly 60 million children in Africa do not have enough food despite the continent’s economic growth in recent years.

A child dies every three seconds globally due to food deprivation – 10,000 children every day – but although figures show an improvement in child hunger at a global level, it is getting worse in some parts of Africa, where the problem is largely a question of political will.

Nine out of 10 African children do not meet the criteria for minimum acceptable diet outlined by the World Health Organization, and two out of five don’t eat meals regularly. Liberia, Congo and Chad are at the bottom of the chart when it comes to children aged six to 23 months receiving sufficient and diverse food with a healthy frequency. They are followed by Zimbabwe, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem,” said Assefa Bequele, ACPF’s executive director. “It is the offspring of the unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable governance, and economic mismanagement. Persistent and naked though the reality is, it remains a silent tragedy, one that remains largely unacknowledged and tolerated, perhaps because it is a poor man’s problem.”

Bequele added: “It is completely unacceptable that children are still going hungry in Africa in the 21st century. The statistics are truly alarming. Child hunger is driven by extreme poverty, uneven and unequal economic growth, gender inequality and a broken food system. Although Africa now produces more food than ever, it hasn’t resulted in better diets.”

Hunger impairs growth and cognitive development of children, but also hits the economic performance of the country they come from. Child hunger can cost African countries almost 17% of their GDP, according to the report. The continent’s present GDP is estimated to have been reduced by 10% because of stunting alone.

Annually, child hunger costs Ethiopia 16.5% of its GDP. The rate for Rwanda is 11.5%. The report says “for every dollar invested in reducing stunting, there is a return of about $22 (£17) in Chad, $21 in Senegal, and $17 in Niger and Uganda”, and if the investment is made early in the child’s life, the return rates can be even higher: up to $85 in Nigeria, $80 in Sudan and $60 in Kenya.

Image by Charles Nambasi from Pixabay

Africa could have one billion undernourished, malnourished and hungry children and young people by 2050 if current levels continue unabated. More than half of African countries are currently off course to meet targets required in the African regional nutrition strategy (2015-2025). Just nine countries will meet the target of reducing stunting by 40% by 2025.

Mauritius and South Africa are among the states with fewer children suffering from hunger, while Central African Republic and Chad are the worst child-friendly nations, according to ACPF. Child hunger has been in sharp contrast with economic growth seen in countries such as Kenya, which has had a 2% average growth in GDP per capita but also a 2.5% increase in stunting.

Child rights campaigner Graça Machel said at last month’s International Policy Conference on the African Child: “Women and girls, along with children from poor and rural backgrounds, suffer the most from hunger. In some countries, stunting rates are twice as high among rural children as among their urban counterparts.”

Conflict and the climate crisis have exacerbated child hunger in Africa, with three out of four of the continent’s stunted children under the age of five living in countries turned into war zones. In areas experiencing protracted conflicts, the rate of undernourishment in children is about two to three times higher.

In 2017, more than eight million people in Ethiopia, five million in Malawi, four million in Zimbabwe and three million in Kenya were affected by acute food insecurity caused by issues relating to the climate crisis.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/05/nearly-half-of-all-child-deaths-in-africa-stem-from-hunger-study-shows

Ontario Government Supports Families in Response to COVID-19

Province Providing One-time Financial Assistance During School and Child Care Closures

TORONTO — The Ontario government is offering direct financial support to parents while Ontario schools and child care centres remain closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new Support for Families initiative offers a one-time payment of $200 per child 0 to 12 years of age, and $250 for those 0 to 21 years of age with special needs.

The announcement was made today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.

“During this extraordinary time, we’re doing everything we can to support parents to keep everyone safe and ensure our children continue to learn and stay mentally active,” said Premier Ford. “This one-time funding will allow parents to access additional tools for our kids to use while at home and studying remotely. I want to remind everyone to stay at home and only go out if absolutely necessary. It’s the only way we are going to defeat this terrible virus.”

“Our aim during these extraordinarily challenging times is to continue supporting those impacted hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak — Ontario families,” said Minister Lecce. “School and child care closures have disrupted family life a great deal and our government will do whatever it takes to support them and keep them safe. This funding will flow to parents directly, to offer them immediate relief during this difficult time.”

Families can complete a simple online application at Ontario’s Support for Families web page to access this financial support. Parents already receiving Support for Parents payments through direct deposit will be automatically eligible for this financial support and do not need to submit a new application.

“As we reach a critical juncture in our fight against COVID-19, it’s important schools and child care centres remain closed,” said Minister Elliott. “Keeping Ontarians safe is our number one priority and it’s also our duty to help parents who are supporting their children and families during this unprecedented time.”

Through this initiative the government is providing over $300 million in relief to parents across Ontario as part of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.

“With schools and child care closed, life has become more difficult for families and they need some extra help,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, includes $7 billion in direct support for people and jobs, and $10 billion in cash flow support for people and businesses. This $17 billion plan includes direct relief for parents when they need it the most.”

Quick Facts

  • Ontario public schools will remain closed to teachers until Friday, May 1, 2020, and to students until Monday, May 4, 2020, to keep Ontario’s students safe from COVID-19. Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, according to the Declaration of Emergency, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time.
  • On March 22, Ontario announced its effort to support health care and frontline workers with emergency child care services across the province. Frontline workers who make use of these services are also eligible for this one-time payment.
  • The Government reiterated its focus on positive mental health supports for students dealing with the challenges of COVID-19. Premier Ford announced an investment of up to $12 million to deliver online and virtual mental health supports across our province, supporting students, families and frontline workers.
  • Ontario launched the second phase of Learn at Home and Apprendre à la maison, a new online portal that provides resources for families so students can continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Source: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/04/ontario-government-supports-families-in-response-to-covid-19.html

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