10 Facts About Child Hunger in the World
While hunger is a devastating reality for millions of children around the world, we have the power to save them.
From Nigeria to Syria, children across the globe face the risks of severe hunger. Those who survive may be plagued with lifelong effects ranging from stunted growth to weakened immunity to illnesses like the common cold.
Here are the ten most important things to know about childhood hunger and what the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is doing to fight it.
1. A Child Dies Every 10 Seconds From Malnutrition
It’s a tragic truth that more than 3 million children die from hunger every year. And between conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of hungry children is on the rise.
2. Nearly Half of All Deaths Among Children Under 5 Are Caused by Hunger
A child’s death sends shockwaves through a community and sadly, 45 percent of young lives under the age of five are lost to hunger and hunger-related causes.
For families facing poverty, conflict, extreme weather events and displacement, finding nutritious food for children every day can be nearly impossible.
3. Kids Are Most at Risk of Starvation in Conflict Zones
Children bear the brunt of the inevitable spread of hunger that comes with ongoing violence. Children living in countries ravaged by war are more than twice as likely to be malnourished as their peers, and 40 percent of all displaced people are children.
4. 45 Million Kids Suffer From Severe Malnutrition Every Year
It’s a staggering number and one with far-reaching consequences. Young children and infants depend on their caregivers for nutrient-dense foods that support their growth, development and immunity. But in low-income or conflict-ridden countries, nutritious foods are often out of reach.
5. Young Girls Are Especially at Risk of Hunger
More than 60 percent of the world’s hungriest people are women and girls. Inequality – from early marriage and young motherhood to cultural barriers and lack of education – means girls are much more likely to be malnourished, causing immediate and long-term health problems.
6. Children Are More Than Twice as Likely to Face Extreme Poverty
More than 350 million children face the reality of extreme poverty and that means facing hunger every day. Parents surviving extreme poverty – defined as living on less than $1.90 per day – have to make regular, often heartbreaking decisions when balancing the cost of food with housing, healthcare and other basic needs.
7. Countries Across Africa Have Some of the Highest Rates of Child Malnutrition in the World
Due to natural disasters, conflict and poverty, families across the African continent are amongst the most highly impacted by food insecurity and child hunger. From South Sudan to Ethiopia, a shocking 61 million children are experiencing stunted growth due to malnutrition. However, while Africa has some of the highest rates of childhood hunger, Asia is home to the highest number of children facing hunger.
8. The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Pushed Millions More Children Into Hunger
The pandemic continues to drive families into hunger and poverty, hitting the world’s most vulnerable children especially hard. When schools closed in over 199 countries, an estimated 370 million children were affected by the creeping impacts of hunger.
9. Giving Kids Early and Regular Access to Nutritious Meals Saves Lives
When a child has daily access to healthy meals and other critical resources like health services and vaccines, they’re able to focus on learning, growing and enjoying their childhood. Our School Meals program serves as an essential safety net, providing more than 15 million school children around the world with lifesaving nutrition, health, education and hope. In the face of COVID-19 related school closures, we adapted our school meals program – the largest of its kind in the world – to provide food vouchers and take-home rations so children could continue to eat healthy foods.
10. More Than Half of WFP’s Beneficiaries Are Children
The most crucial nutritional window for a child happens between conception and their second birthday – their first 1,000 days of life. That’s why we step in to support pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and young children with the nutrition support they need. In 2020, we reached more than 17 million mothers and children through preventative and nutrition treatment programs. In fact, 58 percent of the people that the U.N. World Food Programme serves are children.
Childhood hunger is one of the biggest – and most preventable – issues of our time. But kids don’t have to go hungry. Through school meals, our First 1,000 Days programs and more, the U.N. World Food Programme is doing everything we can to save them.