Published On: Mon, Nov 20th, 2023

‘Hunger will destroy their dreams’ – child born into hunger every two seconds | World | News

Analysis by Save the Children found the number facing dangerous levels of food insecurity from birth had leapt by 22 percent over the last decade, up from 14.4 million in 2013.

Economic instability, conflicts and climate change are driving a devastating global hunger crisis. The Daily Express witnessed the effects in Somalia earlier this year, where hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee drought-hit lands and live in temporary shelters.

The charity said progress had previously been made, with the number of undernourished births falling from 21.5 million in 2001. However, this trend began to reverse in 2019.

Callum Northcote, head of hunger and nutrition at Save the Children UK, said: “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 – or one child every two seconds. Hunger will destroy their dreams, silence their play, disrupt their education, and threaten their lives.

READ MORE: Two-day-old baby Suldhano’s life already blighted by hunger crisis in Somalia

“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.”

Africa and Asia accounted for 95 per cent of the world’s undernourished births this year, the analysis released to mark World Children’s Day found.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to have the highest number of babies born into hunger in 2023 – around 1.5 million.

Overall, a total of 6.6 million children under the age of five are estimated to be undernourished in the country.

Among those struggling to feed their children is 33-year-old Sifa, a mother living in a displacement camp in DRC’s North Kivu.

She has five children, the youngest born just three months ago, and has already lost three to malaria, cholera and militant groups.

She said: “I live in constant fear that I will lose another child. I keep thinking: ‘Will I ever see my children grow and will ever have enough food for them?’

“I’m scared of waking up every day to find my baby gone. Since giving birth three months ago, I have been struggling to feed my infant.

“I know I should eat more but what little we have I give to my nine-year-old daughter. She already begs for food every day and sleeps hungry, so I try to give her something. I know it’s dangerous sending her out there, but we have no other option, she needs to eat.”

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is expected to have the highest number of children born into hunger in Asia – around 440,000.

Zolaikha, 23, has seen her 10-month-old daughter Marium grow weak and sickly as a result of malnutrition.

The infant began suffering with diarrhoea when age six months and was then diagnosed with pneumonia due to a weakened immune system.

Zolaikha said her baby was “severely weak”, adding: “She was crying all the time and was always in pain or discomfort and had a high fever.

“I used to cry with her. It was difficult to see my daughter in pain. I hope no one’s child ever gets sick. My other child, Zohra, was also severely malnourished.

“She had frequent diarrhoea too and later caught pneumonia as well. It is all because of drinking unsafe water and not having enough nutritious food.”

World leaders will meet at a global food security summit on Monday to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity.

Save the Children urged the Government to “lead by example” by increasing funding for the hunger crisis response, including investment in programmes to treat and prevent child malnutrition.

The charity also called for longer term action to tackle the climate crisis and global inequality, and help countries become more resilient to shocks such as pandemics and wars.

Mr Northcote added: “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.

“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.

“The UK must increase the role it is playing. Aid cuts disproportionately impacted the work Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office does on nutrition. Today’s summit is a good step, but this must be matched with increases in funding and prioritisation.”

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