The United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) has warned that up to one million people, including 160 000 children under five, in northern Mozambique are facing food shortages and a nutritional crisis.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, 17 September 2019, the agency also warned that these conditions are likely to worsen in the coming months as a direct result of the devastation caused by cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which hit the country’s central and northern regions.
Both storms caused widespread flooding, the destruction of nearly 780 000 hectares of agricultural crops and the displacement of tens of thousands of families.
According to UNICEF, the number of children under five-years-old facing levels of food insecurity “crisis” is expected to rise to 200 000 in areas affected by natural disasters by February 2020 when about 38 000 children could be extremely malnourished and at risk of death in the same period.
“The agricultural devastation caused by the two cyclones has further worsened already high levels of child malnutrition,” said Marcoluigi Corsi, UNICEF Representative in Mozambique.
“Many children in areas affected by natural disasters do not have access to the nutritious foods they need for their healthy development. Six months later, the prospect of further suffering is very real as we enter the dry season. More resources are urgently needed to support ongoing humanitarian efforts,” he said in a statement.
Prior to cyclones in Mozambique, the rate of chronic malnutrition in children was 43 percent.
Mozambique being one of the poorest countries in the world, multidimensional poverty means that many children face conditions that inhibit normal physical and cognitive development.
Malnutrition also leaves children at risk of developing other health conditions or contracting opportunistic diseases.
For the first time in years, Mozambique has reported cases of pellagra – a disease linked to vitamin B3 deficiency that results from limited food diversity.
More than 600 cases have been reported.
The usual seasonal increase in malaria and diarrheal diseases is also expected.
Many malnourished children will be more vulnerable because of poor access to health services caused by deteriorating rural roads during the coming rainy season.