Save the Children’s recent analysis has discovered that over 17.6 million children will be born into hunger in 2023, which is one-fifth more children than a decade ago. This finding reveals the alarming increase in the number of children born into hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being the highest since records began. Sifa *, 33, shared her experience of giving birth to a malnourished baby three months ago in the DRC, expressing her constant fear of losing another child.
According to new research released on World Children’s Day, at least 17.6 million children will be born into hunger this year, equating to about 33 children every minute. This represents a 22% increase from a decade ago, with about one-fifth more newborns facing hunger this year compared to 2013. The analysis uses the latest country data on the prevalence of undernourishment from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and UN estimates on the number of births.
The devastating hunger crisis affecting every corner of the world is a result of economic instability, conflicts, and repeated climate shocks. The analysis indicates that Africa and Asia account for 95% of the world’s undernourished births in 2023. However, the data does not include the impact of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory on hunger and the birth rate in the region.
Hannah Stephenson, Global Head of Health and Nutrition at Save the Children, emphasized the alarming situation by stating, “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. 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.”
The research also revealed that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to have the highest number of babies born undernourished this year, with about 1.5 million newborns projected to be born into hunger, the highest number recorded for the country since 2001. Projections indicate that an estimated 6.6 million children under the age of five will be undernourished in the DRC in 2023.
In Afghanistan, the country is preparing for the highest number of children born into hunger in Asia among countries with high levels of undernutrition. The story of Marium*, 10 months, and her mother Zolaikha* highlights the challenges faced by families in Afghanistan due to limited income and lack of access to nutritious food.
Despite previous progress to reduce global hunger, the research highlights that progress started significantly declining in 2019 due to 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, which is expected to impact more than 66,000 babies born in Gaza this year, with more than 15,000 born between 7 October and the end of 2023.
Save the Children is urging world leaders to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity at the global food security summit in the UK. They are also calling for greater collaboration, dialogue, and investment across sectors, with leadership by local communities, to bolster response planning and implementation to prevent predictable shocks from turning into crises.