Every child needs a healthy diet to survive and grow up to fulfil their potential. But millions miss out on the nutrition they need. The consequences can be catastrophic.

Robert, four months old, is given life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition at a clinic we run in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (photo: Ivy Lahon/Save the Children)

The scale of the problem

  • Close to half of all preventable deaths of children are directly caused by malnutrition. Children who are malnourished are less able to fight off illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
  • 450 million children globally will face chronic malnutrition over the next 15 years.
  • 1 in 4 children in poor countries suffer permanent damage to their bodies and minds – a condition known as stunting. This is as a result of having missed out as a young child on the nutritious food they need to grow and develop.
  • Child mortality has almost halved since 1990, but malnutrition remains a stubborn challenge. 

The effect of climate change 

Climate change is seriously threatening the world’s agriculture systems. And current agricultural production systems can have harmful impacts on soil quality, both by over-using essential soil nutrients and by polluting the soil with artificial fertilisers.

Demand for energy, water and land resources continues to increase dramatically. But the world’s ability to manage these resources equitably is poor. As a result, inequality and hunger are made worse.

Supporting families

For millions of families in extreme poverty a nutritious diet is simply out of reach.

Dietary support in Nigeria

In rural northern Nigeria, half the population can’t afford a healthy diet. It’s reported that half of all children under 5 are stunted.

That’s why we’re co-leading an ambitious partnership here to support young children and mothers during the critical first 1,000 days – from conception, through pregnancy, up to a child’s second birthday. To help young children and pregnant women get the nutrients they need, we’re giving grants of £14 per month, coupled with dietary advice, to 60,000 pregnant women and mothers.

By the end of 2018, we anticipate that more than 400,000 people in northern Nigeria will have benefited from increased food security and protection from extreme poverty.

But we don’t intend to stop there. By piloting the Child Development Grants Programme at scale in 2 states, we aim to create the conditions for the Nigerian government and local authorities to be able to expand this approach across the north of the country.

We’re also providing millions of young children here with essential vitamins. In 2014, our Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria programme provided:

  • More than 2.5 million young children with vitamin supplements to support their growth and boost their immune systems.
  • More than 1 million pregnant women with iron supplements.

Tackling severe hunger

Our specialist feeding centres in emergency situations provide life-saving nutrition to severely malnourished children.

Reducing malnutrition in South Sudan

In South Sudan in 2014 more than 200,000 children were suffering from acute malnutrition. We reached 100,000 children with:

  • Nutrient-rich food
  • Healthcare
  • Psychological support
  • Emergency education

Preventing crises

How can we prevent food crises before they occur? That’s the challenge our Household Economy Approach addresses.

The HEA analyses typical families’ food and income sources, as well as their spending and ways of coping when a crisis occurs. We then project which areas and types of households are most vulnerable to shocks such as droughts and rises in food prices.

This approach has been used and developed over decades, helping millions of people. Since 2011 across Africa’s fragile Sahel region we’ve trained 400 government and NGO staff in the HEA – increasing the resilience of almost 35 million people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.


Find out more

Our policy work on hunger