Life-saving food and nutrition

Too many children don’t have the food they need

Every minute of every day, more than 5 children die as a result of malnutrition, according to estimates.

Millions more live with the lifetime effects of not having the food they need to live and grow – physical disabilities and learning difficulties.

The start of a child’s life is a critical time. Without enough of the nutrients they need at this vital time, children’s bodies and brains don’t develop the way they should.

A health worker treats eight-month-old Ali in a Unicef-supported heath centre. Ali is suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Unicef/Al-Issa

When children are malnourished, we provide emergency food

In fact, Unicef provides 80% of the world’s life-saving emergency food.

And we don’t stop there.

Our specialist staff also help families and communities keep their children healthy and well nourished for the long term through education and by providing special supplements, supporting breastfeeding and making sure mums have enough of the right things to eat too.


Rova’s story: Back to health

Rova is five years old and loves food – her favourite by far is carrots. They’re only a recent addition to the patch of land behind their home in Antsirabe, Madagascar, but they’ve quickly become her favourite.

As a baby Rova mainly ate rice, and although this gave her enough calories to live, it didn’t give her of the vital nutrients she needed to grow up healthy and strong. As a result, she became malnourished.

But over the last few years, Rova and her mum, Louva, have been attending a local Unicef-supported nutrition centre. Here, Rova plays with friends while nurses support Louva and teach her and other parents about the importance of nutrient-rich diets for their children.

Rova, 5, shows off a home-grown carrot behind her house in Antsirabe, Madagascar.
Photo: Unicef/Matas

Her health has improved. She is still small, but she doesn’t get as sick anymore.

She's more talkative, she wants to play with her friends all the time.

Louva, Rova's mum

“The first time we went to the nutrition centre, Rova was underweight, very small,” explains Louva. “But now her health has improved. She is still small, but she doesn’t get as sick anymore.  She is more talkative, she wants to play with her friends all the time – before she was quiet. This made me sad.”

By treating and preventing malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, Unicef has helped cut the number of children like Rova affected by stunting – children’s bodies and brains not growing the way they should – by nearly 100 million since 1990. But there is much more to do.

With your support, we can work towards putting an end to hunger so that every child gets the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and strong.