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1 in 4 children globally live in severe child food poverty: UNICEF

1 in 4 children globally live in severe child food poverty: UNICEF
7 June 2024 09:35


Around 181 million children worldwide under 5 years of age - or 1 in 4 - are experiencing severe child food poverty, a new UN report revealed on Thursday. This situation makes these children up to 50% more likely to experience wasting, a life-threatening form of malnutrition, according to the report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

For the first time, the report titled “Child Food Poverty: Nutrition Deprivation in Early Childhood” analysed the impacts and causes of dietary deprivation among the world’s youngest people in nearly 100 countries, and across income groups. It warned that millions of children under the age of five are unable to access and consume a nutritious and diverse diet to sustain optimal growth and development in early childhood and beyond.

Severe Child Food Poverty

Children who consume, at most, two of eight defined food groups are considered to be in severe child food poverty. Four out of five children in this situation are fed only breastmilk/milk and/or a starchy staple, such as rice, maize or wheat. Less than 10% of these children are fed fruits and vegetables. And less than 5% are fed nutrient-dense foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, or meat.

“Children living in severe food poverty are children living on the brink. Right now, that is the reality for millions of young children, and this can have an irreversible negative impact on their survival, growth and brain development,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Children who consume just two food groups per day, for example, rice and some milk, are up to 50% more likely to experience severe forms of malnutrition.”

The report warned that while countries are still recovering from the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of growing inequities, conflicts, and the climate crisis have pushed food prices and the cost of living to record high levels.

Millions Living in Severe Poverty

Of the 181 million children living in severe food poverty, 65% reside in just 20 countries. Around 64 million affected children are in South Asia, and 59 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In Somalia, a country experiencing conflict, drought and floods, 63% of children are living in severe child food poverty, and in the most vulnerable communities, over 80% of caregivers reported that their child had been unable to eat for an entire day.

In the Gaza Strip, months of hostilities and restrictions on humanitarian aid have collapsed the food and health systems, resulting in catastrophic consequences for children and their families. Five rounds of data collected between December 2023 and April 2024 have consistently found that 9 out of 10 children in the Gaza Strip are experiencing severe food poverty, surviving on two or fewer food groups per day. This is evidence of the horrific impact the conflict and restrictions are having on families’ ability to meet children’s food needs - and the speed at which it places children at risk of life-threatening malnutrition.

Source: WAM
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