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Heads of UN agencies outline steps to lessen COVID-19 impact on children

As part of its Reimagine campaign, UNICEF calls for accelerated action to prevent and treat malnutrition caused by pandemic as humanitarian community appeals for $2.4 billion to improve maternal and child nutrition. Courtesy photo

Rome, Italy | XINHUA | The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is threatening access to food by some of the world’s most vulnerable — children, according to a new white paper written by the heads of four United Nations agencies, including the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The white paper, published in the scientific journal The Lancet and released by FAO on Tuesday, called on countries to take action to protect children from food supply problems sparked by the pandemic.

It was jointly written by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, along with David Beasley, executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program (WFP), Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Qu is a former vice minister of China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

The paper, entitled “Child Malnutrition and COVID-19”, calls for five specific actions aimed at protecting children from malnutrition during the global coronavirus pandemic: safeguarding and promoting access to “nutritious, safe, and affordable diets”; investments in maternal and child nutrition initiatives; reactivating and expanding early detection services for low body weight among young children; maintaining access to healthy school meals for vulnerable kids; and expanding social protection programs to guarantee access to food and other essential services.

“Our teams in countries everywhere stand ready to support governments and partners in implementing these five actions now,” the co-authors wrote. “We must step forward together with sustained action and investments on nutrition today, and deny the COVID-19 crisis an inter-generational legacy of hunger and malnutrition in children.”

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