11 Million Children Under 5 Are Facing Extreme Hunger

 For the first time in five years, world hunger has increased. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on already strained food systems. Experts predict that the world will see a global food emergency and famines of "biblical proportions" as a result.

For millions of children living in fragile and conflict-affected settings, the threat of hunger and malnutrition is a daily reality. We must act now to both save children’s lives today and to safeguard their futures from the scars of malnutrition

What Is Causing the World Hunger Crisis?

"We cannot escape the fact that many of the key drivers of hunger and malnutrition are human-made, and many of the consequences for children are avoidable." -Janti Soeripto, President & CEO of Save the Children U.S.

A 9-year old girl sits with her baby sister who eats a food supplement on the floor of a home in DRC.

Every day, 9-year old Michelle* takes her baby sister to the health center in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo to receive food supplements. Both sisters only eat once a day. 

  • A persistent lack of access to nutritious food
  • Conflict and insecurity
  • A dramatic increase in food prices
  • A changing climate, extreme weather events and recent invasions of desert locusts
  • COVID-19 and its secondary impacts, including lockdowns, school closures and economic recession
  • Gender inequality

Hunger Hotspots: 5 Countries to Watch in 2021

An estimated 11 million children under 5 are facing extreme hunger or starvation across 11 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Middle East and Asia. But in these 5 countries, COVID-19, conflict and climate change could tip millions of families over the edge.

In war-torn Yemen, 10.3 million children are facing food shortages. In just the southern half of the country nearly 587,600 children under 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition, including nearly 100,000 on the brink of starving to death. The situation in the north is also perilous.

Afghanistan is also on the front line of the hunger crisis. A third of the country is facing acute food shortages including more than 1.5 million children under 5. 

COVID-19, movement restrictions and inability to find work and rising food prices are also pushing this food crisis into urban areas on a scale not previously seen, while increasing insecurity and armed violence are only making things worse. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) insecurity and conflict have had a devastating impact on people’s capacity to access food and 21.8 million people across this vast country are facing hunger, including nearly 4 million children under 5. 

A recent uptick in insecurity in the east is posing yet another challenge to food security in a country facing what is considered to be one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world.

Children in South Sudan remain in serious peril because of the cumulative effects of years of conflict, flooding and a poor economy which have destroyed livelihoods, disrupted food production and markets, wrecked the economy and forced 4 million people to flee their homes. 

More than half of the population (6.5 million) have faced food insecurity this year, including nearly 1 million children under five. Some 300,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the most dangerous and deadly form of extreme hunger. The country is facing a potential risk of famine.

The countries of the Central Sahel (Burkina FasoMaliNiger) have for years been affected by the impacts of climate change, which has, in turn, disrupted availability and access to food and created the current nutrition crisis. 

In the last couple of years growing insecurity across the region has aggravated the problem by disrupting access to social services, food production and the pastoralist economy. 

Across these three countries more than 650,000 children under 5 are facing severe hunger.

Help Fight Child Hunger

Millions of hungry and malnourished children need urgent support.

A global leader for children during the COVID-19 crisis, our number one goal is fighting threats to child survival, like lack of nutritious food. But we can't do this important work without you. Help us fight child hunger so that all children everywhere can survive and thrive.


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