Health and Nutrition Fund

The Problem of Hunger in Asia

Asia is home to more than 4.6 billion people, about 60% of the world's population. So, it's not surprising that more than half of the world’s hungry people also live in Asia.1 In fact, Asia and the Pacific is home to nearly half a billion (479 million) undernourished people.2

Undernutrition is defined as a diet that is insufficient in terms of energy (caloric) requirements and inadequate in meeting a body's nutrient requirements for good health.

It's also estimated that 959 million people in the Asia-Pacific region are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity, with nearly one-third of them (327 million) in the severe food insecurity category; 80% of the severely food insecure are in South Asia.2

The spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 is expected to increase rates of world hunger even more.

Prioritizing Nutrition Is an Important Element in Fighting Poverty

It’s universally acknowledged that providing food assistance as part of hurricane relief efforts, or in response to earthquake disasters and other emergencies, saves lives, but it's the emphasis on proper nutrition throughout life that changes lives and will break the cycle of poverty.

The conditions of stunting, wasting and underweight that result from acute, recurrent and chronic undernutrition and the "hidden hunger" associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies may seem unrelated to the rising incidence of overweight and obesity in low- and middle-income countries,* but they stem from the same root causes: poverty, inequality and poor diets.

Nearly 80 million children in Asia under the age of 5 have faced hunger for so long that they are now stunted (low ratio of height to age)3, but at the same time, Asia is experiencing growing rates of obesity. Millions of children in Asia – especially those in large cities where economic growth is not distributed equally – are becoming overweight and obese because the food their families can afford lacks nutritional value. As a result, they eat a lot of processed foods full of fat, salt and sugar.

Despite the obesity crisis occurring in cities, extreme poverty in Asia is most prevalent in rural areas. In South Asia, more than four out of every five people who suffer from hunger live in rural communities, and the situation isn’t much better in East Asia or the Pacific; 75% of the people in rural East Asia and the Pacific are poor and struggling to afford food.3

Regardless of the setting, poverty and inequality are the main causes of hunger and all the forms of malnutrition across the Asia-Pacific region.3

Inadequate sanitation infrastructure and poor hygiene practices, common elements of extreme poverty, are also prevalent across Asia, making existing hunger-related problems worse.

1 in 3
is affected by some form of malnutrition

150 Million
are undernourished

is food insecure

Source: World Food Programme

Hunger and Child Development

Poverty and hunger affect a child’s physical and cognitive development, and the effect starts even before the child is born.

Malnutrition in an expectant mother can cause developmental challenges in the unborn child. Anemia and iron deficiency in pregnant women are so prominent in Asia because of the widespread hunger — 400 million Asian women of childbearing age are anemic — it has been identified as a public health concern. This iron deficiency in the pregnant mother can cause the child to be born prematurely, have a low birth weight, and/or cause problems during early childhood development.

After birth, chronic hunger and malnutrition can result in stunting, wasting (low weight for height), higher susceptibility to disease and illness, a difficulty in developing social skills, slow cognitive development, and more.

The effects of poverty on children are substantial and affect their physical and mental health throughout life, along with their behavior and their ability to learn and achieve.

Helping Hungry Children in Asia

Despite the widespread problem of hunger around the world, particularly in Asia and Africa, the situation is not hopeless. Ending child hunger is possible. Our Health and Nutrition Fund helps feed and care for millions of children affected by poverty, regardless of whether they are in Asia, Africa, South America or Central America.

By helping meet the life-threatening needs of hungry children, while also providing preventive care to support long-term wellness, our Health and Nutrition Fund provides the means for our frontline church partners to identify acute food issues, chronic child malnutrition, physical food needs and other family food crises.

By giving to our Health and Nutrition Fund, you are providing supplemental food, vitamins and medical care to malnourished children in all the countries we work in and are supporting our therapeutic feeding and food stability initiatives for infants and newborns.

Your donation will safeguard hungry children in Asia and other countries from illnesses that hamper their development and threaten their lives. Make a donation today!

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1 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2020. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. Rome, FAO.

2 FAO, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2019. Placing Nutrition at the Centre of Social Protection. Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2019. Bangkok, FAO.

3 Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2018. Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2018 – Accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bangkok. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

* In 2015, the World Bank began phasing out the term "developing world" in its publications and databases. The use of the developed countries and developing countries categories was "becoming less relevant" with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and their focus on targets for the whole world.


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