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Not enough food: The child hunger crisis

In parts of Northern Africa and Yemen, a severe hunger crisis is putting children’s lives in danger. The causes of this hunger crisis are complex, and vary from country to country. But the consequences remain the same – children are at risk of starvation.

Save the Children is on the ground responding to the crisis

Since early 2017, Save the Children has been working in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Yemen to stop children and their families dying from hunger.

The region has been hit hard by drought and other climate impacts, and ongoing conflict in some countries is exacerbating the dangerous lack of food and water. Our teams are providing life-saving healthcare and treatment to children who desperately need it.

The root causes of hunger

South Sudan

In December 2013, conflict broke out in South Sudan. Since then, the humanitarian crisis has deepened and spread, forcing millions of people to flee their homes. Crops and livestock were destroyed, the economy has collapsed and food prices have soared. In early 2017, famine was officially declared in the country. While it is no longer categorised as famine, the situation remains critical. 

Nyapuoch holds her 10-month-old daughter Nyanian,* as she is tested for malnutrition at a Save the Children clinic in South Sudan.
The red marking on the band around her arm signals she is severely malnourished. 
Photo: Jonathan Hyams / Save the Children.


Years of drought have led to crop failure, causing widespread livestock deaths and forcing thousands of people to move to try and find food and water. And the drought has brought more than hunger. It has also increased the spread of diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, which can kill a person within hours if left untreated.

In a Cholera Treatment Centre in Baidoa, Somalia, Fadumo stokes the hand of her son, Nissar,* who is just four years old.
Photo: Mustafa Saeed / Save the Children.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit has been supporting treatment centres by training staff and providing life-saving supplies. Our teams have also set up rehydration posts in some of the worst-affected areas. Preventing severe hydration is key when it comes to ensuring people do not succumb to cholera.


In 2016 - 2017, the two main rainy seasons (locally known as Dyer and Gu) completely failed in most parts of the southern Somali region of Ethiopia. The resulting drought means families have been left with a critical shortage of water, poor pasture and fewer livestock.

Shukri* holds her daughter, Bishaaro,* as she eats a high-nutrient peanut paste, which is used to help children regain weight and improve their health. 
Photo: Seifu Assegid / Save the Children.


Kenya is experiencing its worst drought in recent history. After two, and in some places, three failed rainy seasons, 2.7 million people are in need of assistance. As well as a shortage of food, children also lack access to safe drinking water, especially in places where rivers and wells are drying up.

A member of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit screens a child for malnutrition in Turkana, Kenya. The team is providing health and nutrition services to people living in remote communities that are badly affected by the drought.


Nigeria has experienced seven years of insurgency and violence. More than 1.8 million people have fled their homes and this desperate search for safety has led to hunger and disease in overcrowded camps or overstretched communities.

Zuwaira,* looks on as Dr Bot examines her youngest child, Shuri,* at a Save the Children stabilisation centre in Northeast Nigeria. 
Photo: Tommy Trenchard / Save the Children.

Zuwaira* fled her home with her husband and children two years ago when insurgents attacked. The only income they have is what her husband has been able to make carrying water for people.

“My husband is a great farmer,”  she says, “but now no-one can go where our farm was … we can’t run a business, we can’t farm. The biggest challenge is food.”


War broke out in Yemen in March 2015 and, since then, the conflict has been escalating. It has devastated the country and compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis brought on by years of poverty, conflict and ongoing instability. Around 14 million people urgently need access to safe drinking water and sanitation to stop the spread of cholera and other diseases. 

Amira* was brought to a health centre by her father and mother, Haiyah.
Photo: Save the Children.

“My daughter is one year old,”  says Haiyah. “She has been ill since the day after she was born. She is suffering from malnutrition and many illnesses like diarrhoea and inflammation. I am malnourished myself. We used to buy a bag of flour for 3,500 riyals and now we pay 6,700 riyals, and the price of some goods has gone up by 300%.”

Learn more about how you can help children in crisis.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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