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60 million children across eight of the biggest humanitarian crises need help to survive this year

11-month-old Haifa* weighs just 2.7kg when she should weigh 6.4kg. She is receiving treatment for severe acute malnutrition in a Save the Children-supported hospital in Taiz, Yemen.

Half of all the children in need in 2021 live in just eight countries

LONDON, January 26 – An astonishing 60 million[i] children who need help to survive this year – half of all the children in need globally – live in just eight countries. Save the Children is calling for a concerted and immediate global response in 2021 to ensure last year’s setbacks do not permanently impact an entire generation for years to come.

COVID-19 has put decades of progress for the world’s most vulnerable children at risk. Weak health systems were brought to their knees as children saw their parents or teachers get sick with the virus. Children went hungry because families were plunged into poverty as households lost their livelihoods and sources of income. 

The education of more than 300 million pupils is currently still affected by the pandemic, as many schools had to close to curb the virus, increasing the risk of child abuse, exploitation, early marriage or children dropping out of school permanently.

According to the UN, more than 235 million people – roughly half of them children – will need some form of humanitarian assistance this year, up from 170 million in 2020. That’s a dramatic 40 percent increase in less than a year.

Of the roughly 117.7 million children who need life-saving support in 2021, more than half (60 million) live in just eight countries, with Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia accounting for more than 10 million children each.  






















Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, said:

“2021 is a make-or-break year for millions of children in need. There’s no excuse for children going hungry day after day. We are particularly worried about the more than nine million additional children at risk of acute or severe malnutrition. We can’t ignore the clear warning signs of dangerous food shortages and the risk of famine in many countries, including Yemen, South Sudan, and parts of Nigeria.

“60 million children across eight countries – equivalent to almost the entire UK population – will struggle to survive in 2021. As President of the G7, the UK needs to play a leadership role in recommitting – alongside other countries – to help the world’s most vulnerable children, grow up healthy and happy.”

Haifa* from Yemen is 11 months old and suffers from severe acute malnutrition, the most life-threatening form of extreme hunger. She weighs just 2.7kg, less than half of what she should at her age (6.4kg). Her family is surviving on just two meals a day, of tea and bread for breakfast and dinner. Her mother, Roqea*, told Save the Children:

“My daughter started getting sick when she was three months. When I took her to the hospital, they told me that she is malnourished. She got some treatment in the past, but she kept getting worse. Since she got sick, she never fully recovered, I thought she would never recover. Usually we just have tea and bread for breakfast and dinner. Sometimes we have eggs for lunch. The only thing I hope for the future is for my child to recover and to be able to walk.”

Mr Watkins continued: “Even before the pandemic, children were already facing a triple threat to their rights from conflict, climate change and hunger. If we delay action any longer, we risk thousands – potentially tens of thousands – of children losing their lives to entirely preventable causes.”

To help tackle the biggest threat to children’s survival and rights in living memory, Save the Children is launching a £597m plan to reach 15.7 million people including 9.4 million children in 37 countries.

*names changed to protect identity


Multimedia content and case studies available from Yemen.

Haifa*, 11 months old:
Suha*, 8 months old:
Amir*, 7 months old:
Noor*, 4 months old:

For interviews please contact:


Bhanu Bhatnagar


+44 7467 096788




+44 7831 650409



  • Save the Children is working hard to ensure that in 2021, children affected by crisis can access education and are protected from violence, exploitation, and other forms of abuse. Families will be supported financially so their children can keep learning and have access to healthcare, clean water, and nutritious food. In all its responses, Save the Children will be focusing especially on empowering girls and women, to make sure they have equal access to support and services.
  • Save the Children’s global humanitarian plan for 2021 includes four strategic goals underpinned by our commitment to quality, accountability and partnership:
  • Ensure children and their families have access to essential health, nutrition and WASH services in conflict, crisis and disaster affected countries.
  • Ensure the education, protection, and wellbeing of crisis-affected children by ensuring a safe return to learning (either remote or in person).
  • Children, including girls, adolescents, children living outside of family care, and those in conflict, will be protected from violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect.
  • Families are enabled to meet their basic needs and reduce the use of negative coping strategies, especially those affecting children, through increased access to income opportunities, cash and voucher assistance (CVA) for basic needs (including food), in-kind food when CVA is not appropriate, and government social protection schemes. 
  • Save the Children supports therapeutic feeding services for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition within the hospital in Taiz, Yemen, where Haifa* was treated, including primary health services for mothers or relatives of patients during the admission period. Our teams provide Infant and Young child feeding corner where a trained midwife is providing counselling for patients’ mothers. Save the Children is also building the capacity of health workers and supporting the rehabilitation of different facilities of the hospital.


[i] A total of 60,237,000 children will need humanitarian assistance in Yemen, Ethiopia, DRC, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The figure based on info from national Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs), or was calculated by extrapolating the under-18 populations in the countries for which national HRP data was not yet available, using UN data on the total number of people in need.