Economic aftershocks caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic could reverse decades-long progress on child wellbeing in Africa, where 33 million children are now at risk of poverty, Save the Children warned on Tuesday.

In an article, the organization said malaria levels were projected to rise to levels of some 20 years ago, while roughly 265 million younger children were out of school because of COVID-19.

“[…] the virus added to the factors driving food insecurity, the pandemic is expected to have a long term impact on children, despite early decisive action taken by many African countries,” it added.

“COVID-19 has enormous implications for the education, health, nutrition and protection of millions of children in Africa. This health crisis could compromise children’s educational outcomes for a generation, with girls being particularly at risk of staying out of school,” said Doris Mpoumou, director of Africa Union Liaison Office for Save the Children, quoted in the article.

With their education so suddenly interrupted, 262.5 million children are out of school and millions among them are at risk of not returning, especially girls,” Mpoumou added.

She warned that ongoing outbreak was “exacerbating existing vulnerabilities,” putting pressure on already weak healthcare systems and disrupting routine health services, which she said was “likely to increase child deaths from perfectly preventable and treatable diseases.”

The pandemic hit Africa as hunger climbed to already alarming levels due to climate shocks, conflict and economic instability, Mpoumou said, adding that refugee and internally displaced children were the most vulnerable.

The article was published on the heels of another report by Save the Children titled, How To Protect A Generation At Risk, which analyzes the virus outbreak’s impacts on African children.

The report urged African governments to make “child-friendly” decisions, as well as introduce concrete and strong measures to protect and enforce children’s rights during and after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Africa now exceeds 190,000 while more than 5,000 people have died from the virus.

Africa faces severe economic risks due to the pandemic, with the African Union suggesting that yearly growth could fall as low as minus 1.1%.

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