15 July 2020

PRESS RELEASE: NZ aid agencies unite to warn that COVID-19 and hunger will negatively impact children living in poverty

The release this week of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report by the UN has prompted 13 NZ aid organisations to warn that children in low-income countries will be the most affected by the global pandemic and hunger. We stand beside other leading aid agencies in encouraging Kiwis to help our global neighbours in coming through the pandemic.

The report estimates between 778 to 828 million people may go hungry this year.  While it is hard to predict, a preliminary assessment suggests that COVID-19 may add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world.

ChildFund New Zealand CEO Paul Brown is asking Kiwis to think of children, youth, families and communities in need overseas, as normality starts to set back in here.

“We are working in communities where regular, everyday life is much more difficult than it is in New Zealand, due to many factors whether economic, social or environmental, along with the lasting effects of civil wars and natural disasters. So you take what already is an extremely challenging environment to provide the basics for children and then bring in a global pandemic and it all just gets so much more difficult."

COVID-19 is compounding the situation and threatening to unravel decades of progress towards the reduction of extreme poverty. 

Council for International Development Chairperson and Tearfund CEO Ian McInnes says the more we can do now to reduce the impact, the better. With extreme poverty reduced to about eight per cent of the world’s population prior to COVID-19.

"Without swift action, we will very likely see a rapid return to historic levels of poverty. With fractured food markets and rising unemployment, hunger levels and the numbers facing starvation are rising,” Ian says.

McInnes says children are the most dependent and vulnerable in any society. 

"In low-income countries more will be needed to protect them, not only from the virus itself but also from the downstream effects like a food security crisis that will significantly impact them more than those in higher-income countries.”

According to UN researchers, the pandemic could see a further 395 million people plunged into extreme poverty. Save the Children and UNICEF say a further 86 million children could fall into poverty by the end of 2020 alone.

National Director of World Vision New Zealand Grant Bayldon says people here have looked after their neighbours and the most vulnerable people in New Zealand and now it's time about our global neighbours. 

“Our global neighbours have been hit harder than us by this crisis. Our most essential work right now is getting food and supplies to those in need, especially in refugee camps. Donations from Kiwis will support that work.”

Bayldon says we haven’t seen a disaster of this magnitude in recent history. 

“This is unlike a natural disaster because its impacts are not confined to one region, this is widespread and prolonged.”

Kiwis can play a part in ensuring that children are properly supported and that the gains made in fighting poverty in recent years are not lost, by giving to an organisation working with children.” 

Adra CEO, Denison Grellmann says in low-income countries, there aren’t the social welfare safety nets that we have access to or the advanced health systems. "Sanitation and social distancing are more challenging if you’re living in a refugee camp or a crowded urban slum. As a result, children are at greater risk of losing a parent or caregiver which can leave them destitute.”

Lockdowns have also severely impacted children as parents have not been able to earn a living and families have been faced with being evicted because they can’t pay their rent, he says.

The thirteen agencies are Adra, Caritas, CBM, ChildFund New Zealand, Hagar, Hope St, International Needs, Orphans Aid International, The Salvation Army, Save the Children, Tearfund, VSA and World Vision.

To help children, young people, families and communities combat the negative impacts of COVID-19 you can  donate now to ChildFund New Zealand.

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