Thirteen New Zealand aid organisations have banded together to issue a stark warning today over the millions of children plunged into hunger by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The major aid agencies - 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 - are calling on Kiwis to help "resource their global neighbours" to help deal with the mounting disaster.

It comes after the release today of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World by the United Nations (UN), which estimates between 778 million and 828 million people globally 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.

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Covid-19 is compounding the situation and threatening to unravel decades of progress towards the reduction of extreme poverty, the aid groups say.

"Without swift action, we will very likely see a rapid return to historic levels of poverty," says Ian McInnes, Council for International Development chairman and Tearfund chief executive.

Tearfund New Zealand chief executive Ian McInnes. Photo / Supplied
Tearfund New Zealand chief executive Ian McInnes. Photo / Supplied

"With fractured food markets and rising unemployment, hunger levels and the numbers facing starvation are rising."

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 this year alone.

"People here have looked after their neighbours and the most vulnerable people in New Zealand," says national director of World Vision New Zealand, Grant Bayldon.

Grant Bayldon, national director of World Vision New Zealand, says Kiwis need to help others hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo / Supplied
Grant Bayldon, national director of World Vision New Zealand, says Kiwis need to help others hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo / Supplied

"Now it's time to help our global neighbours, who 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."

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Bayldon says the world hasn'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."

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McInnes says children in low-income countries will need to be protected from not only the virus itself but also from "downstream effects", like a food security crisis that will significantly impact them more than those in higher-income countries.

"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," McInnes says.

"In low-income countries, there aren't the social welfare safety nets that Kiwis have access to, or the advanced health systems, Adra chief executive Denison Grellmann says.

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Sanitation and social distancing are also more challenging for those living in a refugee camp or crowded urban slum.

"As a result, children are at greater risk of losing a parent or caregiver which can leave them destitute," he says.

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