The learning and development of millions of children and youth are at risk due to the global food and nutrition crisis

Statement by the Members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies

Children and youth living in crisis contexts affected by conflict and climate change are feeling the brunt of the mutually reinforcing global food, nutrition and learning crises. For these children and youth, hunger, malnutrition, and starvation are threats in themselves, as well as being harmful to children’s learning capacity by delaying school enrolment and causing grade repetition. Further negative effects include increased risk of dropping out of school, and of sexual and gender-based violence, child and forced marriage, early pregnancy, child neglect, child labour and recruitment into armed groups.[i] To invest in education, especially for those caught in emergencies or displaced, is to support a vehicle to access better food security, health and protection.

The rising cost of food, cooking oil, fertiliser and fuel has contributed to a global emergency that is causing a surge in humanitarian needs – particularly in countries affected by climate change, conflict and violence. This is due in part to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional and national socio-economic factors, political instability, and the ripple effects of wars, especially in Ukraine. This increasingly complex crisis – with countries and regions already experiencing shocks now also seeing a lack of food, safe and clean water, and energy,[ii] is pushing millions of people into extreme poverty and hunger.[iii] This often leads to a vicious downward spiral and has a devastating impact on crisis-affected and displaced children and youth. The World Food Programme estimates that the current food crisis has pushed an additional 23 million children into acute food and nutrition insecurity since the beginning of the year, bringing the number of affected children to 153 million.[iv] The escalating situation continues to have a direct impact on communities, causing displacement and interrupting the education of girls, boys and young people, while exposing them to a myriad of protection risks.

Food security is among the top concerns of families unable to afford an education for their children.[v] As the global food and nutrition crisis worsens, we are seeing ever more children and youth dropping out of school and unable to enjoy their right to education. Families are forced to make the difficult choice between sending their children to school or having them look for food, collect water or go to work. Girls are often the first affected, as they are more likely than boys to be taken out of school when families face economic strain. Worst of all, girls face heightened risks, including child and forced marriage, early pregnancies and domestic violence. Even for those who continue to attend school, food and nutrition insecurity is a main barrier to actual learning, as hunger affects the ability to concentrate and learn.[vi] Recognizing the link between food and nutrition insecurity and learning losses must be high on the international agenda. At the Transforming Education Summit held in September 2022, the global community committed to transforming education. This means that we cannot leave the most vulnerable children and youth behind, specifically those living in humanitarian contexts.[vii]

The international community is called on to act so that these crises do not continue the vicious spiral that threatens to erase progress. Interventions that target food and nutrition insecurity, climate resilience and education in emergencies can, and should, be leveraged to secure virtuous cycles and sustainable gains. The education sector has a key role to play in this process, and all actors must be engaged. A country’s education system is often its most robust national social service infrastructure, which supports the delivery of social protection programmes – and education has the potential to address the immediate food and nutritional needs of children, particularly those of school-age, while at the same time also addressing other humanitarian needs.[viii]

Further, the respect for the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) related to the conduct of hostilities, to ensuring adequate supplies of food and water, and to allowing and facilitating access for humanitarian relief, can help mitigate the impacts of armed conflict on food security.[ix] Meanwhile, respect for the rules of IHL and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) related to the protection of education[x], can have a positive impact on the safety of learning environments and on the continuity of services including health, water and nutrition. This will have an impact on the quality of learning and on the opportunities for learners to acquire knowledge and skills to sustain their lives and livelihoods.

The international community is called on to:

[i] INEE Resource Collections, Food and Nutrition:

[ii] IASC Key Messages, The Global Humanitarian Impact of High Food, Fertilizer and Fuel Prices, 4 November 2022:

[iii] Plan International, World Hunger and its Impact on Girls, 3 August 2022:

[iv] WFP, A generation at risk, 16 September 2022:

[v] IDMC, Informing better access to education for IDPs, November 2022:

[vi] Plan International, ibid.

[vii] Education in crisis situations: A commitment to action, September 2022:

[viii] While education in emergencies interventions may not directly benefit children under five, most at risk of disease and death in contexts of food insecurity, they can help reduce pressure on families where better services are assured for school-age children. EiE can also highlight areas of vulnerability and needs, including via schools. UNICEF, Child Food Poverty, October 2022:

[ix] ICRC, Starvation, Hunger and Famine in Armed Conflict, June 2022:

[x] ICRC, IHL and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts, November 2019:

[xi] Tashkent Declaration and Commitments to Action for Transforming Early Childhood Care and Education, 16 November 2022:

[xii] CERF Life-saving criteria 2020:

[xiii] WFP, A generation at risk, ibid.

[xiv] Global Education Cluster, Cash and Voucher Assistance for Education in Emergencies:

[xv] INEE Minimum Standards:

[xvi] ICRC, Food Security and Armed Conflict, 24 October 2022: