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One hundred seventy-nine million school children live in hunger.

by Thrive, Updated June 28, 2024

Quick Fact Sheet

  • One hundred seventy-nine million school children live in hunger.
  • Forty-five million children are below the required weight for their height due to undernutrition.
  • Over 40% of child deaths globally are attributed to hunger and malnutrition-related cases.
  •  South Asia has the highest rate of stunted children across the globe, with about 59 million children in the region being stunted.

Nutrition is essential for academic success. Many children lack the required nutrients to thrive in school. Due to socio-economic, climate factors and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, global hunger is high.

Over 40 million children are severely malnourished and are linked to poor growth. Due to the effects of malnutrition, many children suffer from stunted growth, poor academic performance, and health challenges.

In 2021, 179 million schoolchildren were living in hunger. South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa account for three-quarters of people living with undernutrition globally. Obesity, on the other hand, which was thought to be a concern of the wealthy, is now rampant in children between the ages of 5 and 19 in low-income families due to the overconsumption of inexpensive processed, fatty and sugary foods..

Sixty-six million primary school children are living with hunger and are attending classes while hungry. . Nutrients are fundamental to the proper growth of children, and micronutrient malnutrition leads to hidden hunger. Hidden hunger is tagged hidden not because it is hard to detect but because its adverse effect may not be noticed until it is too late.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization data, more than 2 billion people will likely become micronutrient deficient. At least 1 billion people have already developed impairments that pose challenges to their health, including micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency.

Forty percent of children globally have multiple deficiencies in essential micronutrients. Children living in poverty, food insecurity, and poor dietary circumstances are predisposed to micronutrient malnourishment.

Only 1 out of 4 South Asian children meet the minimum dietary standards. Anemia is also prominent in South Asia, with 58% of children surpassing the global statistics of children with anemia. South Asia has the highest rate of stunted children across the globe, with about 59 million children in the region being stunted.

Over 20 million people in Bangladesh have severe deficiencies in iron, zinc, and vitamin A. Undernutrition is a significant factor that is connected with millions of deaths and diseases in children. 80% of undernourished children worldwide are found in Asia, the Middle East, the Western Pacific, and Africa.

Poverty is not the only factor contributing to malnourishment in children. In recent years, Bangladesh has improved and made substantial progress in reducing poverty and maintaining high economic growth rates. Nevertheless, the stunting rate of children in Bangladesh is 43%, and it is one of the highest in the world.

Less than 25 million people in Bangladesh do not have access to food programs, and twice that number lack food security. 25% of children in Bangladesh do not have proper dietary standards, suggesting the possibility of being stunted or underweight as well.

The national statistics for undernutrition, malnutrition, and stunted growth in children in the Philippines are less evenly distributed. Children in rural areas are more likely to face undernutrition than those in urban areas. The region with the highest stunting rate is  Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which has a stunting rate of 45%. Other regions have stunting rates of 25% to 40%, with the lowest stunting rate being Central Luzon with 23%.

Diet influences a large part of a child’s growth. 7% of children in the Philippines are too thin for their height, and 1 out of 10 young children are overweight. This statistic indicates poor consumption patterns and an imbalance of essential minerals and vitamins indispensable to proper growth. Most families consume mainly rice, and while this makes them feel full or satisfied, it does not contain the right amount of nutrients to support exponential growth. Children need a variety of nutrients to grow properly. Many children eat to survive and stay satisfied, but far too few thrive nutritionally.

Thrive combats hidden hunger through daily school feedings, and is dedicated to ensuring students realize their full potential academically and physically.