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An additional 6.7 million children under 5 could suffer from wasting this year due to COVID-19 – UNICEF warns

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An additional 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from wasting – and therefore become dangerously undernourished – in 2020 as a result of the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF warned today.

According to an analysis published in The Lancet, 80 per cent of these children would be from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Over half would be from South Asia alone.

“It’s been seven months since the first COVID-19 cases were reported and it is increasingly clear that the repercussions of the pandemic are causing more harm to children than the disease itself,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Household poverty and food insecurity rates have increased. Essential nutrition services and supply chains have been disrupted. Food prices have soared. As a result, the quality of children’s diets has gone down and malnutrition rates will go up.”

Wasting is a life-threatening form of malnutrition, which makes children too thin and weak, and puts them at greater risk of dying, poor growth, development and learning. According to UNICEF, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 million children were already wasted in 2019. Without urgent action, the global number of children suffering from wasting could reach almost 54 million over the course of the year. This would bring global wasting to levels not seen this millennium.

The Lancet analysis finds that the prevalence of wasting among children under the age of five could increase by 14.3 per cent in low- and middle-income countries this year, due to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. Such an increase in child malnutrition would translate into over 10,000 additional child deaths per month with over 50 per cent of these deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

The estimated increase in child wasting is only the tip of the iceberg, UN agencies warn.  COVID-19 will also increase other forms of malnutrition in children and women, including stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight and obesity as a result of poorer diets and the disruption of nutrition services. Over 250 million children globally are missing the full benefits of vitamin A supplementation due to COVID-19.

In a commentary to The Lancet report, also released today, the heads of UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is undermining nutrition across the world particularly in low- and middle-income countries, with the worst consequences being borne by young children. More children and women are becoming malnourished due to the deteriorating quality of their diets, the interruption of nutrition services, and the shocks created by the pandemic.

Humanitarian agencies immediately need USD $2.4 billion to protect maternal and child nutrition in the most vulnerable countries from now until the end of the year. The heads of the four United Nations agencies appeal to governments, the public, donors and the private sector to protect children’s right to nutrition by:

  • Safeguarding access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets
  • Investing decisively in support for maternal and child nutrition
  • Re-activating and scaling up services for the early detection and treatment of child wasting
  • Maintaining the provision of nutritious and safe school meals and
  • Expanding social protection to safeguard access to nutritious diets

UNICEF’s Reimagine campaign aims to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from becoming a lasting crisis for children, especially the most vulnerable children. Through the campaign, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to parents, governments, the public, donors and the private sector to join UNICEF as we seek to respond, recover and reimagine a world currently besieged by the coronavirus:

“We cannot allow children to be the overlooked victims of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Fore. “We must simultaneously think both short and long term, so that we not only address the challenges posed by the pandemic and its secondary impacts on children, but also chart a brighter future for children and young people.”

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Imo tops, as Nigeria’s unemployment rate hits 27.1% in Q2 2020

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Nigeria’s unemployment rate has increased to 27 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, a move from 23.1 per cent reported in Q3 2018 according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)

The NBC in its ‘Labor Force Statistics: Unemployment and Underemployment Report’ released on Friday also disclosed that the number of persons in the economically active age (15 – 64 years), jumped from 115,492,969 in Q3 2018 to 116,871,186 in Q2 2020.

“For the period under review, Q2 2020, the unemployment rate among young people (15-34 years) was 34.9 per cent, up from 29.7 per cent, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2 per cent from 25.7 per cent in Q3 2018,” the NBS report said. “These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings.

“The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people within ages 15 -64, who are able and willing to work) was estimated to be 80,291,894″.

This was 11.3 per cent less than the number of persons in Q3 2018.

“Of this number, those within the age bracket of 25-34 were highest, with 23,328,460 or 29.1 per cent of the labour force,” it added.

The report further revealed that the number of employed people in Q2 2020 slumped by 15.8 per cent to 58,527,276 when placed side by side with that of Q3 2018.

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“Of this number, 35,585,274 were full-time employed (i.e. worked 40+ hours per week), while 22,942,003 were underemployed (i.e. working between 20-29 hours per week)”.

At 48.7 per cent, Imo State has the highest unemployment rate in the country and is trailed by Akwa-Ibom State (45.2 per cent) and Rivers State (43.7 per cent).

Anambra State, however, has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation – 17 per cent.

“For underemployment, the state which recorded the highest rate was Zamfara with 43.7 per cent, while Anambra State recorded the lowest underemployment rate, with 17 per cent in Q2 2020,” the agency said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBS said: “2,736,076 did not do any work in the last seven days preceding the survey due to the lockdown but had secure jobs to return to after the lockdown.”

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Ex-Vice President, Atiku Condemns NBC N5m Fine

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Nigeria’s former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on Thursday condemned the fined of N5 million imposed on a Lagos-based radio state – 99.3 FM Nigeria Info by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Atiku, in a statement he personally signed asked the NBC to drop the penalty against the station, describing the reason given for its action as an attempt to gag the media in the country.

Atiku also disagreed with the nation’s broadcasting regulatory agency with its argument that the interview that the station had with a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Obadiah Mailafia, constituted any infringement and exposed the media outfit to trading in hate speech.

He argued that whether or not, what Mailafia during the programme aired on the radio station was a false claim, it was not the responsibility of the NBC to impose a sanction for a comment made by an individual.

Atiku added that the former CBN deputy governor had been quizzed and released by law enforcement agents, saying that they were at liberty to prosecute him in court if they were not satisfied with his explanations.

He insisted that it was wrong to make a scapegoat of the media platform which provides opportunities for citizens to ventilate their views.

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The former vice president, however called on the NBC to review the hate speech prohibition code, noting that the interpretation of same was offensive to the notion of free speech

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Ooni Condemns Big Brother Naija, Suggests Replacement

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The Arole Oduduwa and Ooni of Ife, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II  on Wednesday condemned the prominent Big Brother Naija reality show which he said has been misrepresenting the goodness of the Nigerian youths.

Ooni who doubles as Co-chairman, National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria(NCTRN) also offered a suggestion for a reality show which will project the country’s values, charging leaders of the National Youth Council of Nigeria to work out plans on the show which will be called, “The Big Nigeria Reality Show”.

According to the monarch, “Nigerian youths are found of accusing and abusing our leaders, stop abusing them and do your bits. Let’s wear our thinking caps and begin to act like real leaders that we are.

“In the last general election, the total number of vote cast is around 27 million while over 170 million people voted during the 2019 Big Brother 9ija reality show. This is a practical reality of who Nigerian youths are and where our priorities lies as Nigerians

“The funny side in all of these is that we still go to bed, have a good sleep and wake up with the hope to meet a Nigeria we didn’t create. Nigerians Youths! Nigerians Youths!! Nigerians Youths!!!

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“Unfortunately, every time I talk about this kind of attitude, everyone just laugh and moves on. What kind of nation are we building?

“When people say this country, or what kind of country is this, they are indirectly saying these people – it is the people that make a country; so what kind of Nigerian youths are we?” , the Ooni queried.

Ooni added, “The proposed show will be structured in a way that young professionals, talented individuals and others across several field of endeavour will be showcased and helped to reach their peak. This would help the participants and also help viewers to have access to people that can be seen as role models”.

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