Four million children are likely to fall into extreme poverty in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF warned.
There have been more than 100,000 infections in the region, the global body said, with 5,699 people having died from the disease so far.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) estimated that 1,700,000 persons will lose their jobs in 2020 due to the suspension of most economic activities and the almost complete closure of companies and economic facilities.
This, UNICEF estimated, would lead to an increase of eight million people living in poverty, half of whom would be children because there are no social protection systems and programmes to support families during the crisis. This could lead to an increase in child labour and underage marriage as well as a rise in school dropout rates in an effort to boost family incomes.
UNICEF's Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa, Ted Shaiban, said the MENA region has the largest number of children in need worldwide due to ongoing conflicts and wars, as well as the highest rates of unemployment among young people.
Half of the children in the region live in extreme poverty, as they are denied access to basic services, such as education, housing, nutrition, health care, drinking water and sanitation.
UNICEF called on the international community to provide $92 million in order to enable the organisation's bodies to carry on their response activities across the region aimed at supporting efforts to combat COVID-19.