Child Hunger - Compassion International


Hunger Facts
Get the facts about hunger and how it affects children and their families.

hunger facts graphic

One of the primary symptoms of poverty in children is hunger. The facts about hunger clearly show its relationship to other symptoms of poverty around the world such as malnutrition, low birth rate and poor health.

Hunger and malnutrition are self-perpetuating. They sap a person’s energy, strangling mental ability, exacting a price on health and making it more difficult to learn, work and lead productive lives. This is one of the most sobering facts about hunger; it steals life from the vulnerable.

Hunger is preventable, but it requires knowledge and action. The fact that the world produces more than enough food to feed the entire world population and hundreds of millions of people don’t have access to the food produced is tragic. Because of this, millions of children die from malnutrition each year.

Proper nutrition for every child in our child development programs is a priority of ours. Our child development centers provide children with nutritious meals and snacks on program activity days, and we train children about the importance of a balanced diet.

Staff members at our local church-based centers are also trained to detect malnutrition among the children they serve and take immediate action on their behalf. Often that means a program of emergency feeding and vitamin supplements for a severely malnourished child, as well as working with the child’s caregivers to ensure that meals at home meet nutritional needs.

Children sit in a classroom at tables eating their food

  • At least 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals contain indicators that are highly relevant for nutrition, reflecting nutrition’s central role in sustainable development. 5
  • Malnutrition and diet are by far the biggest risk factors for the global burden of disease. 5
  • Preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent. 5
  • Eleven percent of the global population suffers from hunger (one in nine). One in three people is malnourished. 4
  • Close to one-fifth of all children under five remain undernourished. 2
  • One-third of the world’s food is wasted every year. If one-fourth of the food wasted across the globe could be recovered, it could feed 870 million people. 4
  • An estimated 45 percent of deaths of children under age 5 are linked to malnutrition. 5
Chronically undernourished children who manage to survive their first five years, often live with devastating results. Their bodies are stunted physically, they are highly susceptible to illness, and their brains are underdeveloped. The hope of reaching their full, God-given potential is all but shattered.
  • Stunting is the result of poor nutrition in early childhood. Children suffering from stunting may never grow to their full height and their brains may never develop to their full cognitive potential. Stunting affected an estimated 22.9 percent or 154.8 million children under 5 globally in 2016. 3
  • In 2016, more than half of all stunted children under 5 lived in Asia and more than one third lived in Africa. 3
  • Wasting in children is the life-threatening result of hunger and/or disease. Children suffering from wasting have weakened immunity, are susceptible to long term developmental delays, and face an increased risk of death. In 2016, wasting threatened the lives of an estimated 7.7 percent or nearly 52 million children under 5 globally. 3
  • In 2016, more than two thirds of all wasted children under 5 lived in Asia and more than one quarter lived in Africa. 3
  • China accounts for almost two-thirds of the reduction in the number of undernourished people in the developing regions between 1990–92 and 2014–16. 1
  • The number of undernourished people in Latin America has fallen from 58 million to fewer than 27 million. 1
  • In 1990, only 12 countries in Africa were facing food crises, of which only four were in protracted crises. Twenty years later, a total of 24 countries were experiencing food crises, with 19 in crisis for eight or more of the previous ten years. 1
How Do the UN Sustainable Development Goals Relate to Compassion?

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The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) directly parallel what Compassion does. But when it comes to goals and implementation we sometimes take a different approach. This is a quick analysis of the SDGs and how they most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ.