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THE FORGOTTEN. Children die of hunger, thirst and diseases. What will happen if the world doesn’t tackle inequity today

While most of the children spend their days surrounded by a loving family, playing outside with their friends and going to school, let’s not forget about the other children that are not that fortunate. THE FORGOTTEN: children exposed to poverty and famine, forced labour, violence or suffering in the war zones.

EvoNews will publish a series of articles which aim to bring awareness to these serious issues and inspire people to take action to improve the worrisome situation of millions of children that are struggling instead of living their childhood without a care in the world.

According to the latest data from WHO and UNICEF, 5.9 million children under age five died in 2015, nearly 16,000 every day and at least 29 million children live at the moment in poverty in the Middle East and North Africa. Unless the world tackles inequity today, in 2030 167 million will live in extreme poverty and 69 million children under age 5 will die.

Nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are caused by undernutrition, which means an unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year.

Undernutrition puts children at a huge risk of dying from simple and universal infections, increases the frequency and severity of such infections, and contributes to slowed recovery. Moreover, the mix between undernutrition and infection can create a potentially lethal cycle of worsening illness and deteriorating nutritional condition.

One in four children is missing minimum requirements in the most basic life necessities

One in four children in the Middle East and North Africa are living in poverty, a total of 29 million children. Almost half of all children live in inadequate housing while a third live in households without tap water, according to a recent UNICEF analysis among 11 countries in the region. That number shows that one in four children is missing minimum requirements in two or more of the most basic life necessities like nutritious food, clean water, education, healthcare and decent housing.

“Child poverty is about so much more than family income – it’s about access to quality education, healthcare, a home and safe water. When children are deprived of the basics, they are at risk of getting trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Yemen is one of the best examples for this global tragedy. The United Nations now estimates that in Yemen a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. Some 17 million of Yemen’s 26 million people lack sufficient food and at least three million malnourished children are in “grave peril”, the U.N. has also said.

They use unsafe drinking water and they even have to walk 30 minutes to reach it

One in five children in 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa is forced to walk more than 30 minutes to fetch water or use unsafe drinking water. Without access to clean and safe water, suffering from lack of nutritious food, children’s health is in hazard.

Spiralling violence in central Democratic Republic of Congo has disrupted farming and shut down health centres, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to life-threatening malnutrition, according to UNICEF.

An insurrection against the government in the central Greater Kasai region has left hundreds dead and uprooted more than 1 million people since last July, with the United Nations warning of a “dramatically deteriorating” humanitarian situation.

In Central Kasai – one of the region’s five provinces – more than a third of health centres have been forced to close due to insecurity, while food supplies are dwindling, and hygiene and sanitation conditions are worsening, according to UNICEF. The conflict has left an estimated 400,000 children in the region facing severe acute malnutrition, the U.N. agency said.

“These children are among the most vulnerable in the country, and now they face a looming crisis if access to basic services is not restored quickly,” UNICEF’s regional director Marie-Pierre Poirier said in a statement.

By 2040, 600 million children could live in areas with extremely limited water resource

Some 36 countries are currently facing extremely high levels of water stress and by 2040, UNICEF estimates that 600 million children will live in areas with extremely restricted water resource.

Industrialization and climate change are the main factors contributing to water stress and a new report reveals just how much children will suffer as a result of ongoing drought and unsafe water sources.

Even today, millions are suffering because of limited water resources and unsafe water sources. 36 countries are facing extremely high levels of water stress and according to a new UNICEF report, by 2040, some 600 million children will live in areas with extremely limited water resources. Practically, 20 years form now, one in four children will suffer form the effects of water shortages.

UNICEF underlines that children are the most vulnerable when it comes to drought and unsafe water source. Water crisis has been placed third in the World Economic Forum‘s list of top risks and with only 2.5 percentage of the world’s water being classified as fresh water, and more than two thirds of it trapped in glaciers and ice, only a very small percentage is left to meet the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of the world’s population.

Malnutrition leads to terrible diseases, such as cholera

In Somalia about 1.4 million children in drought-hit are projected to suffer acute malnutrition this year, 50 percent more than estimated in January, UNICEF said recently.

They include more than 275,000 children potentially facing a life-threatening severe acute form of malnutrition, who are nine times more likely to die of diseases including cholera or measles, UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said.

“The combination of malnutrition and disease plus displacement is deadly for children,” Mercado told a Geneva news briefing after a trip to the central city of Baidoa.

“A severely malnourished and dehydrated child can die in a matter of hours if they do not get treatment for diarrhoea or cholera. Measles, which can be transmitted via air, can spread like fire in congested displacement camps,” she said.

About 28,400 cases of cholera or acute watery diarrhoea, including 548 deaths, have already been recorded across Somalia, nearly double the rates last year, she added.

An estimated 2.9 million people in Somalia are facing famine, along with 17 million in northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, the United Nations says. Famine has already been declared in pockets of South Sudan.

UNICEF has treated 56,000 Somali children for the most severe form of malnutrition since the beginning of year, an increase of 88 percent over last year. The known death rate among them was one percent, Mercado said.

“Every mother I spoke to said their children were sick, either with diarrhoea, or vomiting or feverish. Most had never been vaccinated before because of the insecurity across the country. The pace and the scale of displacement have risen exponentially.” Mercado said.

Some 615,000 Somalis have fled their homes due to drought and failed crops since last November, joining 1 million previously internally displaced, U.N. spokesman Jens Laerke said.

The U.N. has received nearly 60 percent towards its humanitarian funding appeal of $720 million for Somalia this year, he said, adding: “We are still in a race against time.”

“Don’t wait for the television screens to be filled with emaciated dying children!”

Looking for early clues of famine rather than waiting for images of dying children is crucial to building the resilience needed to avert full-blown hunger crises, the U.N. aid chief said, as the world faces four conflict-driven famines.

“We took a big and very strategic decision at the U.N. …to use the clues we’ve had rather than wait for the proof that we have these famines appearing,” said Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official, according to Reuters.

“Don’t wait for the television screens to be filled with emaciated dying children to mobilize money, resources, activity and prevention,” he said in a speech at Chatham House, a London based think-tank.

The United Nations has declared famine in parts of South Sudan and warned that more than 20 million people risk dying from starvation because of drought and conflict in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, while more than 100 million face acute malnutrition worldwide.

And as drought stretches across Africa and different wars sequester extremely needy areas, one fast solution would be a huge infusion of cash. So far, United Nations are not just millions of dollars short, but billions.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is urging Congress to cut foreign aid and assistance to the United Nations, which aid officials say could multiply the deaths. Traditionally USA provides more disaster relief than any other country, but apparently this isn’t the case anymore.

Claire Reynolds