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21 November 2023 - News


Saadia* caring for her 2-year-old daughter Aisha* who is being treated for malnutrition in Wajir, Kenya. Photo Courtesy| Save the Children

NAIROBI / KENYA, 21 November 2023 – At least 17.6 million children will be born into hunger this year, or about 33 children a minute, which is a 22% jump from a decade ago, according to new Save the Children research released yesterday on World Children’s Day.  

Save the Children 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. Using the latest country data on the prevalence of undernourishment from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO)and UN estimates on the number of births.  

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% of the world’s undernourished births in 2023. 

Kenya is among the top 10 countries where at least 25% of the population is facing chronic hunger and will have about 420,000 babies born undernourished this year according to the new research. Comparatively, the number of undernourished babies a decade ago was 261,000, signifying a notable increase hunger rate from 18.1% to 27.8 %. Other countries affected include DRC, Uganda, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Yemen, Chad, and Zambia.

Projections indicate that in 2023, an estimated 942,000 children aged under-5 and 135,000 pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are acutely malnourished and in need of treatment in Kenya. 

Saadia* lives in a remote village in Wajir County, North-West Kenya, with her husband and Aisha* her only child.  In June this year, Saadia*, faced a harsh reality when a severe drought struck. She and her husband lost many goats. This meant the family had less meat, milk and less money from selling milk. Saadia struggled to breastfeed because she wasn’t getting the nutrients she needed. Her baby daughter Aisha* became dangerously malnourished.

She said: "My daughter had lost weight and she was having diarrhoea and vomiting, she also looked very thin. I was scared when I held her hand. I thought she would die. I was terrified to see her in such a situation."

Save the Children’s Country Director for Kenya and Madagascar, Yvonne Arunga, said:

No one is safe from the impacts of the climate crisis, but we know children, especially those living in lower-and middle-income countries, as well as in disadvantaged communities, are worst affected. For instance, a Kenyan child born in 2020 will on average face 4.6 times more droughts compared to their grandparents.

“As more children come into the world, they are being born into a world where extreme weather events have become more frequent than ever.   And sadly 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.”

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.  

 “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,” Yvonne Arunga 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 but starting closer home here in Kenya.” 

As testament to the effectiveness of early action in Kenya, numerous case studies have demonstrated that local actors prepare and take action to manage risks well ahead of national or international bodies. The Dangerous Delay: The Cost of Inaction report however shows that there have not been concerted efforts to connect and support locally-led early action when designing anticipatory action pilots, nor is sufficient funding flowing to local organizations to respond at scale. Similarly, international and national triggers for action are not designed to support local triggers for action.

Save the Children is calling on world leaders meeting at the global food security summit in the UK today to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity. Only by putting an end to global conflict, by tackling the climate crisis and global inequality, and by building more resilient health, nutrition and social protection systems that are less vulnerable to shocks like COVID-19, conflicts, and the climate crisis, will we be able to ensure the same warnings are not ringing out again in the coming years. 


The child right’s organisation is also calling for greater collaboration, dialogue and investment across sectors with, and leadership by, local communities, to bolster response planning and implementation, as well as our abilities to act early and prevent predictable shocks from turning into crises. Save the Children is also calling on world leaders to scale up low-cost interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition: community-based treatment for acute malnutrition, supporting and protecting breastfeeding, and investing in community and primary-level healthcare. 



Notes to Editor 

  • Methodology:  For the analysis, Save the Children used data from the UN Population Prospects for 2023 and the latest country data on hunger from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), which is measured by undernourishment. The most recent published FAO country data is up until 2022 - country data up for 2022/2023 has not yet been made publicly available. Data on prevalence of undernourishment is only available for the total population. In this analysis we estimate that the share of children affected by hunger is equivalent to the average of the total population, applying undernourishment rates to the number of births in each country. This likely underestimates the true effect as we would expect that poorer communities – in most countries home to proportionally more children – are more likely to be affected by hunger. This analysis uses country-specific estimates of hunger to reflect more accurately the share of children in the total population. 
  • According to the analysis, more than 21.5 million children were born into hunger in 2001. In 2018, the number dropped to about 14.5 million but then jumped up to 15.3 million in 2019. In 2023, there will be an estimated17.6 million undernourished births, 22% or about one-fifth more than in 2013 when there was 14.4 million.  
  • Between 1 January and 31 December 2023, there will be 525,600 minutes. 17.6 million divided by 525,600 = 33.48 - suggesting an average of 33 children a minute will be born into hunger in 2023. 
  • According to the analysis, the top 10 countries with the highest number of children born into hunger in countries where at least 25% of the population is undernourished include: (1) DRC, Uganda, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Kenya, Somalia, Mozambique, Yemen, Chad, (10) Zambia.  
  • According to the analysis, Africa and Asia account for 95% of the world’s undernourished births in 2023, with Africa having more than 9.4 million children born into hunger and Asia with 7.4 million, equalling over 16.8 million total.  
  • Hunger definition: Hunger is the body’s way of signalling that it is running short of food and needs to eat something. Sustained hunger can lead to undernutrition, although it is only one of many causes; others include diarrhoea, malaria and HIV and AIDS.