Child Hunger is Ugly!
Child poverty is hungry, and child hunger is ugly. Through hunger, poverty devastates a child's body, destroys hope, and overwhelms the child's ability to survive. Poverty and hunger are ugly things!
Picture Hunger and Poverty in Africa
What image comes to mind when you think about hunger in Africa and malnourished children? Does your picture of poverty in Africa look like famine and hunger in Ethiopia from the 1980s? Does your picture of poverty focus on the effects of malnutrition seen on the bodies of refugees, babies and toddlers? Or perhaps it looks like food shortages and food insecurity?
Food insecurity is defined as not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food that allows a person to remain healthy and lead an active life.
It's easy to see the pain and hunger documented in a photo when it exploits the suffering caused by child malnutrition. But hungry children in Africa, just like hungry children living in extreme poverty around the world, have a greater problem. Long before you see hunger reflected in a child’s eyes or see malnutrition in their body, they have already fought a persistent battle with food.
Hunger is Devastating Children in Africa
Hunger contributes to 45% of all childhood deaths in Africa,1 killing more children on the continent than anything else. And tens of millions of other children in Africa are barely surviving, consistently without enough food to eat.
A full 90% of African children are not meeting the criteria for a minimum acceptable diet set by the World Health Organization.1 They are hungry or malnourished in some way, and their diet is insufficient to support early childhood development and healthy growth.
In fact, undernutrition - when a person’s intake of vitamins and minerals is less than what it needs to be for proper development, growth and health - is so severe and widespread in Africa that 59 million hungry children are stunted and 14 million suffer from wasting.1
Stunting (low height-for-age) is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition. Wasting (low weight-for-height) is mostly an acute condition associated with recent or severe weight loss.
Hunger and food insecurity are major contributors to the overall problem of poverty in Africa. But the true viciousness is that poverty, in turn, is the primary driver of hunger in Africa. One feeds the other. And together tens of millions of children are going hungry and dying.
Food insecurity affects about nine percent of the global population, with hundreds of millions of children experiencing hunger as a result.
Hunger and Disease
This prevalence of food insecurity and hunger means all aspects of child malnutrition are present in all areas of Africa. Child malnutrition is prevalent in Sub-saharan Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa, including Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Burundi, Niger, and Zambia, to name just a few. Then, when diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus, Chikungunya virus, and the coronavirus COVID-19 come along, they make the hunger crisis worse.
Although child hunger has a consistent and significant impact on economic growth, a pandemic - or even a regional epidemic - challenges the fragile agricultural systems which sustain the poor. Protective health measures such as isolating and social distancing make it impossible for the poor to access food systems beyond their own farms or plots of land. So, when a highly contagious and lethal infectious disease hits during a time of drought or famine, the fragile food security the poor have evaporates altogether.