A girl sitting with her family in Afghanistan

Afghanistan tops the list of 7 countries where children were most in need in 2022. This follows a year when conflict, the climate crisis, and economic devastation created a perfect storm of suffering for millions of children around the world. Photo credit: Sacha Myers

NEW ANALYSIS – Afghanistan Tops List of 7 Countries Where Children Were Most in Need in 2022

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Dec. 20, 2022) — The number of children needing humanitarian assistance rose more than 20% this year to 149 million, with Afghanistan then the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) most severely impacted, according to a Save the Children analysis of the top seven emergencies impacting children in 2022.

An analysis of new Global Humanitarian Overview data from the UN  found there were over 149 million children in need in 2022 compared to 123 million children the previous year. The increase of 26 million children can be attributed to new and protracted conflict, skyrocketing hunger, and the climate crisis. 

Afghanistan topped the list with an estimated 14 million children in need of aid in 2022, according to the analysis by Save the Children. This follows a year when conflict, the climate crisis, and economic devastation created a perfect storm of suffering for millions of children around the world. 

Afghanistan was closely followed by the DRC, which has an estimated 13.9 million children in need of humanitarian assistance. Despite having the largest overall number of people in need in 2022, the DRC’s humanitarian response has received less than half of the funding target set by the UN. Ethiopia, Yemen, and Pakistan also featured on a list by Save the Children of the seven emergencies where the highest number of children were in critical need of essential services such as food, clean water, shelter, and mental health and psychosocial support.

Globally there are now more conflicts than at any time since the end of World War Two, and they all have a devastating impact on children’s lives. Children are far more likely to die from blast wounds during a conflict than adults. In addition, children living in areas of conflict in countries such as Ethiopia, Afghanistan, DRC, and Yemen, are vulnerable to human rights abuses. In many places, there continues to be a lack of accountability for violations against children, resulting in a climate of impunity.

The climate crisis has led to more frequent and more severe natural disasters. Climate-related disasters have had a horrific impact on children this year, from extreme flooding in Pakistan to droughts that have led to catastrophic food shortages in countries such as Ethiopia and the surrounding region. In addition, climate-related disasters have contributed to child hunger and malnutrition, which are increasing globally for the first time in decades. 

Gabriella Waaijman, Humanitarian Director of Save the Children, said:

“Globally, more children need humanitarian assistance to survive than ever before. This year has seen millions of children impacted by conflict, climate shocks, and economic devastation – all drivers of the worst global hunger crisis ever recorded. Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and severe, as we’ve seen in the case of devastating floods in Pakistan. Children I spoke to who were affected by the floods in Pakistan have had everything taken away from them: their homes and their schools. Where there used to be fields of grain there is now a huge lake.

“More funding is critical, but money won’t solve the underlying issues facing children globally. We need governments to act by scaling-up humanitarian diplomacy to end these crises and facilitate humanitarian assistance to those in need.”

Chris Nyamandi, Country Director of Save the Children Afghanistan, said:

“Afghanistan has long been one of the worst places to be a child, but over the past year, the situation for children in the country has grown even more desperate. Children are going to bed hungry night after night. Millions are at risk of severe malnutrition and other life-threatening illnesses. Families are taking desperate measures to survive - sending their children to work or surviving on bread alone.

“It’s a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale the country has never seen before, and it’s only set to get worse with temperatures already dropping below freezing in many parts of the country and millions of children living without proper shelter or even a blanket to keep them warm. The fact it is the biggest humanitarian emergency in the world for children should move the international community from words to action.”

Children are also suffering due to political neglect and lack of funding for humanitarian responses. Afghanistan is at the top of the list of emergencies that have had the gravest impact on children, yet the country has received only half of the funding target set by the UN while needs continue to worsen.

Amavi Akpamagbo, Country Director of Save the Children DRC, said:

“The communities Save the Children works with in DRC are in dire need. An upsurge in conflict has caused over 390,000 people to flee their homes just in the last months, further worsening a hunger crisis in which 3.3 million children under the age of 5 are malnourished, and 45% of deaths in children under five are related to malnutrition. The crisis in DRC has long been neglected, and the humanitarian response has been underfunded, but the children of the DRC can’t wait any longer. More funding and attention to this crisis are urgently needed.”

To make matters worse, it has been more challenging than ever for humanitarian agencies to reach those in need around the world. There is a lack of funding, a lack of access to affected areas, a restrictive environment for civil society organizations, and limitations imposed by counter-terrorism legislation and sanctions. Save the Children is calling on governments to act and scale-up humanitarian diplomacy to end these crises while facilitating humanitarian assistance to those in need.

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Methodology:

The list showing the top seven emergencies impacting children in 2022 are estimates based purely from the numbers of people needing humanitarian assistance according to a combination of data provided in The Global Humanitarian Overview 2023 and country Humanitarian Response Plans, where available. This data is divided by the percentage of children per country, data provided by World Population Prospects 2022. The list provides an estimated number of children in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022, proportional to the population of children in the country.

The overall increase in children needing humanitarian assistance is calculated using a percentage of the overall 339 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, according to data in the Global Humanitarian Overview 2023. The average population of children in the countries listed is 44%, using data from the UN World Population Prospects 2022). Therefore, there were 149 million children with humanitarian needs in 2022. In 2021 there were 274 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the Global Humanitarian Overview 2022. The average population of children in the countries listed is 45%, using data from the UN World Population Prospects 2022. Therefore, there were 123 million children with humanitarian needs in 2021.

Data sources used: 
Number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022 (The Global Humanitarian Overview 2023), download full Global Humanitarian Overview report.
Number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021 (Global Humanitarian Overview 2022).
Percentage of population that are children in 2021 and 2022 (data from the UN World Population Prospects 2022)
Percentage of coverage of Ethiopia’s humanitarian response plan (data from the Financial Tracking Service, Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan 2022)
Sudan: 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (December 2023)

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