African governments must act urgently to break the vicious circle of poverty and hunger

ACPF Executive Director Dr Joan Nyanyuki

New research reveals Africa is home to nearly 60 percent of the world’s poor children.

African governments must take their responsibilities seriously and ramp up their investment in eradicating poverty and hunger.”

— ACPF Executive Director Dr Joan Nyanyuki

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, November 7, 2023 / — Child rights and wellbeing campaigners today urged African governments to take immediate action to end child poverty and hunger across the continent. The call comes as new research reveals Africa is home to nearly 60 percent of the world’s poor children.

Two new reports from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) show that African children are the poorest in the world, and that they are getting poorer. At the same time, 55 million African children under the age of five are stunted due to malnutrition. In the Horn of Africa nearly two million children are at risk of starvation, and in the Sahel, seven million are suffering severe hunger.

“There appears to be no end in sight to Africa’s child poverty and hunger crisis,” said ACPF Executive Director Dr Joan Nyanyuki. “Across the continent, millions of children face hunger, slow starvation and even death. African governments must take their responsibilities seriously and ramp up their investment in eradicating poverty and hunger.

“Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem, and I refuse to accept that it is either inevitable or insoluble. Time after time we have pointed out to governments that poverty and hunger are not only a humanitarian crisis, they are a huge drag on social and economic development. It is governments’ own interests to put and end to them.”

In an effort to galvanise African governments into action, ACPF have released two new reports: the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2023 Justice not Charity: African Governments Must End Child Poverty and No End in Sight: Child Hunger in Africa, together with a powerful new documentary filmed in Mali, Zambia, Somalia and Liberia. The reports highlight alarming new trends in child poverty and hunger, including:

‣ 352 million African children – more than half of all the children in the continent – live in multidimensional poverty. Of these, six in every ten experience severe forms of poverty.

‣ Another 110 million African children are on the brink of poverty, at significant risk of being tipped into it by the illness of a parent or caregiver, or by drought, conflict, displacement or economic crisis.

‣ More than half of African children living in extreme poverty live in six countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Uganda and Niger.

‣ In South Sudan and Niger, almost every child faces severe deprivations in almost every aspect of their wellbeing.

‣ Of the 600 million children in Africa, 90 percent lack a minimum acceptable diet and 60 percent lack minimum meal frequency.

‣ Girls, children living in urban slums or remote rural areas, children living in conflict zones, children with disabilities, and children affected by HIV/AIDS are among the most deprived groups facing a greater risk of severe poverty.

‣ Most African countries fail to provide for the basic needs of children and to deliver basic services to them. Of the 52 countries assessed only 14 have above average scores for addressing child deprivation and poverty.

“Poverty leads to hunger, which in turn leads to greater poverty,” added Dr Nyanyuki. “This vicious circle threatens Africa’s future economic and social prosperity. Poverty and hunger damage a child’s cognitive development, physical health and growth, educational outcomes and future employment opportunities. Their impacts last a lifetime. Tackling the root causes of child undernutrition is crucial for the social and economic transformation of Africa. The performance of African governments in addressing child poverty is poor and unacceptable.”

ACPF urged African governments to adopt a six-point action plan as a matter of urgency:

‣ recognise child hunger and undernutrition as a national emergency
‣ integrate child rights into national development planning
‣ invest in high-quality pre-primary and primary education
‣ improve access to and the quality of maternal and child health services
‣ establish universal child-sensitive social protection programmes
‣ strengthen governance and accountability

“Failure to address child undernutrition costs countries a significant proportion of their annual gross domestic product and hinders post-pandemic recovery. Healthy and well-nourished children tend to be better educated, get better jobs, and earn, save and invest more – all of which are critical for Africa’s economic growth and prosperity,” concluded Dr Nyanyuki.


The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2023 Justice not Charity: African Governments Must End Child Poverty will be launched, together with the report and documentary No End in Sight: Child Hunger in Africa, at two special three-hour events at 1500-1700 EAT (1200-1400 UTC) on 14 and 15 November 2023, respectively. The launches will bring together African heads of state, senior UN and AU representatives, leading African and global child rights experts, academics and civil society organisations.

The events will be live-streamed – please register here. For further information, including advance copies of the reports and documentary under embargo, and to arrange interviews with Dr Nyanyuki, please contact ACPF communications consultants Martin Atkin ([email protected]) or Angie Richardson ([email protected]).

About ACPF

The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is an independent, not-for-profit Pan-African centre of policy research and advocacy on the African child. It was established in 2003 out of concern about the situation of the African child and the need for Africans to recognise their responsibility to collectively ensure the realisation of all rights to all children. More information here.

Martin Atkin
African Child Policy Forum
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