June 14, 2024

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Hunger named as the Most Concerning Issue Facing Children in 2023 – Global Survey

Children at COP28, which is drawing to a close this week in Dubai, said that growing up is hard enough, let alone now having to worry about the ripple effects of the climate crisis

Hunger is the most concerning issue affecting children around the world this year, according to almost half of adults surveyed in almost every continent by Save the Children. 

The survey of more than 25,000 adults between September and October was the largest global audience insights study of its kind for the aid agency, and reflects the urgency of the hunger crisis that has been sweeping across the world due to a combination of the climate crisis, conflict, and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The study found that 45% of adults surveyed in 13 countries believe hunger is the issue affecting children the most in their country and globally.  

Save the Children conducted the survey in a range of high-, middle- and low-income countries, such as Canada, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.  

Survey participants could choose up to three options from a list of 10 issues affecting children. ‘Poverty’ emerged a close second to hunger at 40% of respondents identifying it as a primary concern they have for children, followed by ‘violence towards children’ at about 39%. 

In contrast, ‘climate change’ and ‘emergencies and natural disasters’ received the least number of votes, at about 14% and 10% respectively. When children are directly asked about the issues affecting them, climate change takes centre stage. Last year, Save the Children found that 83% of children in 15 countries reported witnessing climate change or inequality, or both, affecting the world around them.  

Children at COP28, which is drawing to a close this week in Dubai, said that growing up is hard enough, let alone now having to worry about the ripple effects of the climate crisis. 

“It’s not just about rain and sunshine; it’s about how these changes make life so much harder. Children stop dreaming about their futures because they have to focus on finding food and water instead,” 16-year-old Nafiso, from Somalia, said at COP28. “The scary part is that even though everyone feels the effects of climate change, children are the ones who suffer the most.” 

Globally, about 20% of people surveyed reported ‘conflict and war’ was among their top concerns for children. The survey was conducted before the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel on 7 October.  

Conflicts, economic instability, and repeated climate shocks have fueled a devastating hunger crisis around the world, with an average of 33 children born into hunger every minute in 2023. The hunger crisis has continued largely unabated in places such Sudan, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have a combined 7.8 million children facing emergency levels of hunger — just one step away from starvation, death, and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels.  

However, hunger extends beyond just conflict-affected countries. Extreme weather events drove at least 27 million children into hunger last year. In addition, a deepening cost-of-living crisis is pushing adequate and nutritious food further out of reach for many families in the U.S., the U.K., and much of Europe.  

Alexandra Saieh, Head of Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy at Save the Children, said:    

“It is abundantly clear that hunger is a concern for children worldwide. These findings underscore the need for immediate action and collective efforts to address the global hunger crisis and improve the well-being of children everywhere. 

“It is vital we not only address the immediate needs of the global hunger crisis but also tackle the root causes, including conflict, poverty, and climate change. We’re seeing hunger used as a method of warfare in many contexts. This is a global crisis and requires a global solution. Without this, hunger will continue to destroy dreams and eat away at childhoods everywhere.”  

Save the Children is calling on world leaders to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity. Only by putting an end to global conflict, by tackling the climate crisis and global inequality, and by building more resilient health, nutrition, and 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. 

Save the Children is also calling for greater collaboration between governments, development and humanitarian organizations, climate groups, and the private sector. Children and other community members need to be able to have their say in these discussions. No sector or intervention alone can respond to the many causes and vulnerabilities leading to food and nutrition insecurity, but combined, the impact will be more effective, efficient and at scale. 

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