June 20, 2024

A recent study conducted by Save the Children, an international child rights organisation, revealed that about 17 million children are expected to be born into conditions of hunger by the conclusion of 2023.

Save the Children said that this is equivalent to around 33 children every minute and represents a 22 per cent increase from the figures recorded a decade ago.

The group disclosed this in a press statement obtained by Punch on Monday.

Save the Children, in the statement, noted that about one-fifth more newborns would face hunger in 2023 compared to 2013, when 14.4 million children were born into the grips of hunger, adding that its data was based on the prevalence of undernourishment from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) and UN estimates on the number of births.

The child rights organisation adduced economic instability, conflicts, and repeated climate shocks as causes that contributed to the devastating hunger crisis that is affecting every corner of the world.

Based on the analysis, Africa and Asia account for 95 per cent of the world’s undernourished births in 2023, adding that the data does not include the impact the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory is having on hunger or the birth rate in the region.

“More than 17 million newborns will this year enter a world where hunger will eat away at their childhood. Hunger will destroy their dreams, silence their play, disrupt their education, and threaten their lives,” said Vishna Shah-Little, Regional Director for Advocacy, Campaigns, Communications and Media for Save the Children in West and Central Africa.

“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,” Save the Children statement partly read.

The group, at the global food security summit in the UK on Monday, addressed the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity, adding that “only by putting an end to global conflict, tackling the climate crisis and global inequality, and 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 organisation also called 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 the community and primary-level healthcare,” the organisation added.

The organisation added that for countries where at least 25 per cent of the population is facing chronic hunger, the Democratic Republic of Congo would have the highest number of babies born undernourished this year.

“About 1.5 million newborns are projected to be born into the grips of hunger in the DRC – the highest number recorded for the country since FAO records began in 2001. Projections indicate that in 2023, an estimated 6.6 million children under the age of five will be undernourished in the DRC.”

33-year-old Sifa, living in a displacement camp in North Kivu, DRC, is struggling to feed her five children, including her youngest born just three months ago. After losing three previous children to malaria, cholera, and armed groups, she fears she will lose another, this time to hunger.

“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,” Sifa said.

“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,” she said.

Also, Afghanistan is bracing for the highest number of children born into hunger in Asia among countries with vast levels of undernutrition.

Marium, 10 months old, is among the roughly 440,000 children estimated to be born into hunger in Afghanistan this year. At six months, Marium started getting diarrhoea and was later diagnosed with pneumonia due to a weakened immune system.

Her mother, Zolaikha, 23, explained that the family cannot afford nutritious food to help keep her children healthy because of their limited income.

She added, “Since the time we gave her water and homemade food, she started to get diarrhoea. She became severely weak two months ago. She was extremely weak. She was crying all the time, 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.”

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