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World Child Hunger Facts

World Hunger Education Service

See also World Hunger Facts and Hunger and Nutrition Facts

Nutritious foods in adequate amounts are essential for everyone but particularly for children. In early childhood, adequate nutrition can ensure healthy growth, proper organ formation and function, a strong immune system, and neurological and cognitive development. Nutrition, too, has increasingly been recognized as a basic pillar for social and economic development. Well-nourished people can learn new skills, think critically and contribute to their communities. Improving child nutrition impacts global, national and regional child survival, primary education, women’s empowerment, and maternal and child health rates.

On the flip side, child malnutrition hurts cognitive function and contributes to poverty by impeding people’s ability to lead productive lives. Poverty is the leading cause of hunger, but poverty also results from hunger. In spite of the importance of childhood nutrition and significant progress in the last 25 years, global childhood hunger is still rampant.

STUNTING (children significantly below standard height for their age)

UNDERWEIGHT (children significantly below standard weight for their age) 

WASTING (children significantly below standard height to weight ratios)

The prevalences of stunting, wasting and underweight among children under-five years of age worldwide have significantly decreased since 1990. This is good news, but overall progress is insufficient and millions of children remain hungry. Any child suffering from these conditions is at substantial increased risk of severe acute malnutrition, illness and death.

Updated July 2015.


de Onis, Mercedes, David Brown, Monika Blössner and Elaine Borghi for The United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization. 2012. “Levels & Trends in Child Malnutrition - UNICEF-WHO-The World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates”

Krasevec, Julia, Andrew Thompson, Monika Blössner, Elaine Borghi, Juan Feng, Umar Serajuddin for The United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the World Bank. 2014. “Levels & Trends in Child Malnutrition - UNICEF-WHO-The World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates”

World Health Organization. 2015. “Global Health Observatory (GHO) data”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. “State of Food Insecurity in the World” http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/2014/en/

Black, Robert E, Lindsay H Allen, Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Laura E Caulfield, Mercedes de Onis, Majid Ezzati, Colin Mathers, Juan Rivera, for the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group. 2008. Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences.) The Lancet Vol. 371, Issue 9608, 19 January, 243-260. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2960937-X/abstract  (The article is available free of charge, but you will be required to register with Lancet.)

Bryce, Jennifer, Cynthia Boschi-Pinto, Kenji Shibuya, Robert E. Black, and the WHO Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group. 2005. "WHO estimates of the causes of death in children." Lancet ; 365: 1147–52.

Liu L, HL Johnson, S Cousens, J Perin, S Scott, JE Lawn, I Rudan, H Campbell, R Cibulskis, M Li, C Mathers, RE Black, for the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF. 2012. “Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality: an updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000.” Lancet. 2012; 379:2151–61.

Black, Robert E, Harold Alderman, Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Stuart Gillespie, Lawrence Haddad, Susan Horton, Anna Lartey, Venkatesh Mannar, Marie Ruel, Cesar G Victora, Susan P Walker, Patrick Webb, June 2013. “Maternal and child nutrition: building momentum for impact”


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