Survey Reveals: Hunger Emerges as the Primary Challenge Faced by Nigerian Children

Hunger is the most concerning issue affecting children in Nigeria and around the world in 2023, according to almost half of adults surveyed in almost every continent by Save the Children.

Save the Children conducted the survey of more than 25,000 adults in a range of high- middle- and low-income countries, including Nigeria, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US, between September and October.

It was the largest global audience insights study of its kind for the aid agency, and it 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 percent of adults surveyed in 13 countries believe hunger is the issue affecting children the most in their country and globally.

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 percent of respondents identifying it as a primary concern they have for children, followed by ‘violence towards children’ at about 39 percent.

In contrast, ‘climate change’ and ’emergencies and natural disasters’ received the least number of votes, at about 14 percent and 10 percent respectively. When children are directly asked about the issues affecting them, climate change takes centre stage.

According to UNICEF, between June and August 2023, 25 million Nigerians are at risk of food insecurity, with six million children under 5 living in vulnerable states. The World Food Programme estimates that 14.4 million people in Nigeria experience severe hunger, including 4.3 million children under 5 who are acutely malnourished.

Also, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, estimates that 1 in 3 children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, making them too short for their age. Factors contributing to child hunger in Nigeria include climate change and drought, poverty, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and poor infrastructure hindering the delivery of food aid and essential services to vulnerable communities.

With all these in mind, Save the Children is calling on world leaders to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity.. It says by addressing global conflict, climate change, and inequality, and developing resilient health, nutrition, and protection systems, a more resilient world would be ensured.

Save the Children is also calling for greater collaboration between governments, development and humanitarian organisations, climate groups, and 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.”

In 2022, Save the Children found that 83 percent of children in 15 countries reported witnessing climate change or inequality, or both, affecting the world around them.

Children at COP28, which closed on Wednesday 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 percent 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’s survey, include: hunger and malnutrition 45 percent, poverty 40.1 percent; violence against children 38.8 percent; education 36.6 percent; healthcare 32.8 percent; conflict and war 20.5 percent; denial of children’s rights 14.8 percent; inequality and discrimination 14.6 percent; climate change 14.2 percent; impact of emergencies and natural disasters 10.5 percent, and none of these 1.7 percent.

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