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Child malnutrition not confined to low-income countries, World Vision reports

27 October 2023


A child is fed in Bangladesh, this year. Sponsors are supporting children and communities to strengthen education, health, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, and child protection

A child is fed in Bangladesh, this year. Sponsors are supporting children and communities to strengthen education, health, livelihoods, water, sanitat...

CHILD malnutrition is widespread and not confined to lower-income countries, a new study from World Vision reports. One in five parents in the United States, AustraliaGermany, and other countries said that their children did not have nutritious food to eat.

Parents with the youngest children are the most concerned, and the incidence of malnutrition is higher in lower-income and conflict-affected countries, but the problem of lack of proper nutrition is widespread, the study from the international children’s charity reports.

Globally, one in five parents says that conflict is the reason for their child’s going hungry. The World Food Programme says that conflict is the biggest driver of hunger, and that nearly 70 per cent of the world’s most food-insecure people live in areas of conflict.

The study, published last week by World Vision, is the result of a survey of families in 16 countries undertaken by Ipsos MORI in August and September. In conflict-affected countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, and Iraq, parents are most likely to say that violence and war are the main reasons for hunger.

Conflict and hunger are “feeding into one another in a vicious spiral that is aggravating humanitarian crises worldwide”, the reports says.

“We are currently all witnessing the devastating impact of conflict and disasters, and it is children who are the ones who suffer the most. We hear about the horrific numbers of casualties and structural damage, but what is less reported is the devastating impact that that this has on increasing levels of hunger and malnutrition for children impacted,” World Vision UK’s chief executive, Fola Komolafe, said.

Six in ten parents from the 14,000 surveyed were concerned about child hunger and malnutrition. In the past month, half of the parents surveyed have worried about finding the money to feed their families; one third said that there was no food in their home; and two in ten said that their children had had to go to bed hungry.

The leading concern of parents in the UK is the low quality of food — junk food — that their children are eating.

Inflation and the rising cost of living are seen as the main causes of hunger in many countries. The issue of most concern referred to by parents is poverty: people believe that more children are going hungry compared with a year ago. Yet, despite this, most people underestimate the number of deaths of children caused by poor nutrition: globally, the deaths of 45 per cent of children below the age of five are caused by poor nutrition.

Forty-three per cent of those asked said that they had given food to someone in need, either directly or through a foodbank or other charity, in the past year.

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