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Sub-Saharan Africa: 426 children per day at risk of death from hunger following impact of COVID-19

Save the Children

3 min read Partner content

An estimated 67,000 children are at risk of dying from extreme hunger across Sub-Saharan Africa before the end of the year, Save the Children warned today, as the coronavirus pandemic exacerbates what were already dire circumstances in the region.[1] New analysis by Save the Children of data from the Lancet indicates that an average of 426 children per day are at risk of death unless urgent action is taken.

Food insecurity has been compounded by a series of shocks this year in parts of the continent – from floods, swarms of locusts and soaring food prices to displacements. The impact of COVID-19 has added to these factors, crippling economies and destroying livelihoods, rendering food and health services unaffordable or unavailable – earlier this year it was estimated COVID-19 would drive up poverty in sub-Sahara Africa by 23 percent.

By 2030, it is predicted that an estimated 433 million people will be undernourished across Africa.

Ubah, a mother of six in Puntland, Somalia told Save the Children staff: “Life was tough for me and my family, but I worked hard and we survived. The coronavirus has made my situation even worse. Now, jobs are few and far between… Before receiving support, we were only eating once a day and that was just in the morning. I have seen my children go to sleep hungry. The worst feeling for a mother is when you fail to feed your children”.

With food increasingly scarce, young children are growing risk of severe malnutrition. Prior to the pandemic, more than 26 million children across East and Southern Africa were stunted, and 2.6 million children suffered from severe acute malnutrition – the deadliest form of undernutrition. In West and Central Africa, 15.4 million children under five are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year; a twenty percent increase from earlier estimates.

“We’re already seeing the devastating impacts of this virus on some of the world’s hungriest people. Coronavirus measures have decimated livelihoods and crop production, jobs have dried up, and food is becoming increasingly expensive – if it’s available at all. Simply put, many parents can no longer put food on the table for their children”, said Ian Vale, Regional Director for Save the Children in East and Southern Africa.

“We’re already seeing more children arriving at our clinics everyday suffering from malnutrition, and we know that we’re only at the beginning. If we wait until clinics are full, it will be too late. The food crisis could kill tens of thousands of children unless they are reached with humanitarian assistance immediately. We cannot afford to wait.”, continued Vale. 

Even before the pandemic, Sub-Saharan Africa was one of the most food insecure regions globally; it is expected to be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry if current trends continue.

Save the Children is responding to the food crisis by providing food or cash to vulnerable families, ensuring access to safe and clean water and by continuing its health and nutrition services in a Coronavirus-safe way. With resources running dangerously low, Save the Children is urgently calling for funding to support some of the most deprived children in the world.

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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