Children Hunger Statistics

Child hunger in the world is a serious problem that affects several millions of children, disproportionately impacting kids in low- and middle-income nations.

Hunger among children adds to a poverty cycle that continues from generation to generation. Hungry youngsters have trouble concentrating in class or developing life skills, making it more difficult for them to find work and support a family as adults. This, in turn, may result in increased childhood poverty and more famished children in the future.

A grumbling stomach caused by a missing meal is not the same as child hunger. Rather, it refers to a youngster who is facing food insecurity, or going without healthy meals on a regular basis, resulting in undernutrition or malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition is identical to hunger in the framework of global poverty.

Nutrition is vitally important to a human’s health but even more so in childhood. When young, we require extra special care and attention when it comes to what we eat. We need to ensure we are getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients that support our growth. This is one of the most pressing issues when it comes to world hunger. Millions of children all over the world are born with limited access to the right quantity and variety of foods needed to sustain a healthy diet.  Young children need enough of the right nutrition so that they can support:
  • A healthy growing body
  • Organ formation and function
  • A strong immune system
  • Strong gut bacteria
  • Neurological and cognitive development.
Without adequate nutrition, young children can quickly become malnourished, leading to several serious health issues. Growth is stunted, the immune system is weakened, the body becomes fragile and vital behaviors are unable to form. This makes a child vulnerable to illness and disease, prone to poverty, and it can result in early death.

How Many Children in the World are Starving?

Research conducted by UNICEF in 2018 stated that 3.1 million children die from undernutrition every year, that’s 45% of children under 5 years old in developing nations. One in six children (100 million) in developing nations is underweight and one in four of the world’s children are stunted.   Across the globe, 50.5 million children are estimated to be “wasted” (low weight for height) and 150 million children under five years old were considered to be stunted in 2017.  Sub-saharan Africa is the region in which child hunger is the most prevalent in the world with one in four being undernourished. Child hunger is also prevalent across many parts of Asia and South America.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 22%
  • Caribbean: 17.7%
  • Southern Asia: 14.4%
  • Southeastern Asia: 11.5%
  • Western Asia: 10.6%
Child hunger is also an issue in more developed countries across North America and Europe. Families living in relative poverty struggle to feed their children and many are also living on the streets with no access to proper food. a-woman-is-making-donation

Why is Child Hunger a Problem?

Each and every child born on this planet has the right to eat. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we have enough food for everyone but not everyone has enough food. The biggest problem with child hunger is the effect hunger has on a developing child. Malnourishment results in early development issues which can cause stunted growth, illness, and issues with disease. Being born into poverty is starting life at a huge disadvantage. When you do not have access to food there are very few opportunities for you as a child to grow, be healthy, be happy and have the opportunities that more privileged individuals take for granted.  Hunger also deprives children of much more than just food. It deprives them of a chance to grow strong enough to take care of themselves, to earn an education, to care for their family, and to enjoy their life.  A child without food has a slim chance of truly living their life at all.

What Happens When a Child Faces Hunger?

When a child is born into this world with little to no access to food there are huge implications for that child. If they are born in sub-Saharan Africa it is likely they will die before they reach the age of five years old. Even with access to food, they may not get adequate amounts of nutrients required to sustain a healthy body. This leads to stunted growth, cognitive and behavioral issues, a lack of energy to perform basic tasks and the inability to learn to their full capability.

Child Hunger Facts

  • Children who suffer from hunger experience up to 160 days of illness each year (Glicken, M.D., 2010)
  • Undernutrition magnifies the effects of diseases including measles, malaria, severe diarrhea, and pneumonia (Black, Morris, & Bryce, 2003; Bryce et al., 2005).
  • Vitamin A is one of the most common deficiencies in children in low-middle income countries. This increases their chances of developing contracting infectious diseases (UNICEF, 2018b).
  • Zinc deficiency is the leading cause of diarrhea which is a major cause in the death of children aged five and under (UNICEF, 2018b). 
  • 40% of children under the age of five in developing countries are anemic and half are iron deficient (UNICEF, 2018b).  
  • 66 million primary school-aged children go into school hungry in the developing world. 23 million of those children live in Africa (World Food Programme [WFP], 2012).
  • In the USA, 25% of children in households at risk of hunger may be forced to rely on hunger relief charities.

Does a Child Die of Hunger Every 10 Seconds?

You may have seen this claim made by some charities in their awareness campaigns over the last few years. The figure of 10 seconds comes from a highly reputable source, The Lancet, who completed research that discovered more than 3 million children died of hunger in 2011.  Campaign managers divided the number of seconds in a year by three million to reach their claim. It is therefore likely that a child does die approximately every 10 seconds from hunger across the globe.

How Does Child Hunger Affect Learning?

Children living in hunger in developing nations have few opportunities to go and learn at school. Even if they have access to a school, without food, their learning and development are limited. Malnutrition affects a child’s growth, it stunts their body, hinders their abilities and results in both neurological and cognitive behavior issues as they get older.  Children who suffer from hunger cannot learn effectively and are at a huge disadvantage. Food powers our brains and our brain allows us to learn and develop. Without proper nutrition, a child’s education and ability to learn is extremely limited.

How Does Food Insecurity Affect Students?

Food insecurity is not just an issue in developing countries but also in the developed world. In the USA, for example, nearly 50 million people nationwide suffer from food insecurity. These people are most commonly families with children. In April 2016, one in six households in the USA reported the inability to afford food. Food insecurity can negatively impact a child’s education due to:
  • Development of behavioral and mental health issues such as anxiety, and depression.
  • Poor performance in vital learning subjects like maths and English.
  • Increased tardiness at school.
  • Drastically reducing a child’s chances of graduation.

How Can We Stop Childhood Hunger?

Here are the most effective ways in which you can help fight against child hunger right now:
  • Donate
  • Sponsor a child
  • Raise money for charity
  • Spread awareness (conversation, petitions, events, etc.)
  • Host a ‘Food Drive’
  • Ask your company to become a corporate sponsor
  • Become an activist


Is there a solution to childhood hunger?

Humanitarian food assistance is a temporary solution, but it is still necessary to avoid child hunger and misery. Longer-term, sustainable measures, on the other hand, are critical. Climate-smart agricultural training, income diversification via farm and off-farm livelihoods, and assisting smallholder farmers in organizing and participating in credit and savings organizations and agricultural co-ops are just a few examples.

How many children living in hunger today?

Over 350 million children live in extreme poverty, which means they go hungry on a daily basis. In America today, it is believed that 17 million children are hungry.

How much should I donate to help?

The amount of donation depends on the person’s income and priorities. You can feed 20 children by donating $10. You can also choose to donate regularly, or sponsor a child.

What countries suffer the most from childhood hunger?

While many nations suffer from hunger, Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan, and Ethiopia have the greatest levels of hunger.

Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.

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