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A quarter of the world’s children live in severe food poverty, according to a new UNICEF report

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This is evident from a new report released on Thursday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that worldwide, 181 million children under the age of five – or one in four – live in severe food poverty.

Food poverty, the report defines, is the state of consuming nothing or at most two of the eight food groups recognized by the agency. The report itself highlights about 100 low- and middle-income countries. Of the 181 million children affected, 64 million live in South Asia and 59 million in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Food poverty among children is caused by several factors, including conflict, rising food prices and the climate crisis. In Somalia – which continues to be ravaged by drought, conflict and rampant inflation – 63% of children currently live in extreme food poverty. More than 80% of caregivers in the country’s most vulnerable communities reported that their child had gone hungry all day. Within the Gaza Strip9 out of 10 children experience severe food poverty, surviving on two or fewer food groups per day, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine devastates Gaza’s food and healthcare systems.

“Children living in severe food poverty are children living on the edge. This is currently the reality for millions of young children, and it can have an irreversible negative impact on their survival, growth and brain development,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “Children who consume only two food groups per day, for example rice and some milk, are up to 50 percent more likely to develop severe forms of malnutrition.”

Despite the grim statistics, the report notes some successes in key countries. For example, Burkina Faso has reduced the rate of severe child poverty among children by half, from 67% in 2010 to 32% in 2021. Nepal reduced the rate from 20% in 2011 to 8% in 2022. The same happened with Rwanda, which reduced the rate . from 20% in 2010 to 12% in 2020. And Peru, which has kept its interest rate below 5% since 2014.

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