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33 children born into hunger every minute in 2023

November 15, 2023 at 2:56 pm

A mother tends to her child suffering from acute malnutrition on October 03, 2023 in Sanaa, Yemen [Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images]

At least 17.6 million children will be born into hunger this year, or about 33 children a minute, which is a 22 per cent jump from a decade ago, according to new research released today by Save the Children.

Marking World Children’s Day, the charity said it found about one-fifth more newborns will face hunger this year compared to 2013 when 14.4 million children were born into the grips of hunger.

Economic instability, conflicts and repeated climate shocks have contributed to a devastating hunger crisis that is affecting every corner of the world. According to the analysis, Africa and Asia account for 95 per cent of the world’s undernourished births in 2023. The data does not include the impact the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory is having on hunger or the birth rate in the region.

READ: Severe child malnutrition up 300% amid Somalia drought

“More than 17 million newborns will this year enter a world where hunger will eat away at their childhood. That’s 33 children a minute — about the size of a classroom in the US or the UK. Hunger will destroy their dreams, silence their play, disrupt their education, and threaten their lives,” said Hannah Stephenson, global head of health and nutrition at Save the Children.

The future of these children is already compromised before they even take their first breath. We must protect their childhoods and futures before it’s too late.”

Afghanistan is bracing for the highest number of children born into hunger in Asia among countries with vast levels of undernutrition.

Ten-month-old Marium, not her real name, is among the roughly 440,000 children estimated to be born into hunger in Afghanistan this year. At six months, Marium started getting diarrhoea and then was later diagnosed with pneumonia due to a weakened immune system. Her mother, Zolaikha, 23, explained that the family cannot afford nutritious food to help keep her children healthy because of their limited income.

33 children born into hunger every minute in 2023

She added: Since the time we gave her water and homemade food, she started to get diarrhoea. She became severely weak two months ago. She was extremely weak. She was crying all the time and was always in pain or discomfort and had a high fever. I used to cry with her. It was difficult to see my daughter in pain. I hope no one’s child ever gets sick. My other child, Zohra [not her real name], was also severely malnourished. She had frequent diarrhoea too and later caught pneumonia as well. It is all because of drinking unsafe water and not having enough nutritious food.”

Huge progress has been made in the past to reduce global hunger. According to the analysis, 21.5 million children were born into hunger in 2001, one-fifth more than in 2023. However, progress started to significantly decline in 2019, largely due economic instability, conflicts and the worsening climate crisis.

The latest country data on undernourishment was published before the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, where 2.3 million people in Gaza have struggled to get enough to eat due to the ongoing bombardment.  Using the birthrate in Gaza from the UN, Save the Children found that more than 66,000 babies are expected to be born in Gaza this year, with more than 15,000 born between 7 October and the end of 2023. Without a ceasefire, babies’ lives will hang in the balance from the moment they are born.

“Hunger is not a lost cause. We have the power to significantly reduce the number of malnourished children right now, like we have in the past,” Hannah Stephenson continued. “However, if we do not tackle the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, we will continue to see the reversal of progress made for children. This is a global hunger crisis, and it requires a global solution.”

READ: UN drive to save millions of Arab children from malnutrition