Tomorrow is World Hunger Day, when we take time aside to reflect on the global crisis of hunger – recognizing as much as 10 percent of the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night – and highlight sustainable solutions.
Over the past two years, the pandemic created a dire situation regarding hunger and malnutrition, reversing decades of progress made in the fight against poverty and hunger in low and middle-income countries around the world.
Unfortunately, the world didn’t have much time to recover. Conflict, political instability, economic shocks, and weather extremes led to even greater food insecurity in 2021. According to the “2022 Global Report on Food Crises,” 193 million people experienced acute (or crisis-level) food insecurity – an increase of nearly 40 million people since 2020. And more than 26 million children suffered from wasting due to acute malnutrition, leaving them vulnerable to stunted growth, disease, and death.
Compassion International found hunger and malnutrition to be a significant issue for the children in its program and their families. Although some of Compassion’s field countries could easily be identified in the UN’s most recent “hunger hotspots” list – including Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Myanmar, and Colombia – food insecurity continues to impact each country and region where the international child development organization works.
Palamanga Ouali, Compassion’s regional vice president for Africa, says, “Our church partners on the front lines of poverty are seeing rising food costs, failing crops, and malnourished children. They’re seeing it before it’s in the news. Because our staff are serving children before disasters. During disasters. And they stay after the disaster.”
Eunice, a widowed mother in Kenya, faced one such disaster. Her community hadn’t seen rain in 17 months, and families like Eunice’s, who rely on livestock, were highly affected. Her family lost 12 sheep and three goats to the drought, from their original 40 animals. She couldn’t provide milk or meat for her children, and she couldn’t sell milk or meat to meet their basic needs. Her son, a participant in Compassion’s child development program, explains, “We went to school knowing there is no food at home.”
Knowing the community, Compassion’s local church partner immediately responded to the need. Emma, the center director, shares, “We acted directly and promptly to the actual needs of families, with the foremost need being food. We are assured that our families are not going to bed hungry.” Through intervention funds, the church provided 284 families with unconditional cash transfers to help parents and caregivers buy food and meet immediate needs. Before the support, most families did not have enough to eat. Eunice says, “If Compassion had not provided the food money, I would have been chancing every day, hoping for a miracle.”
While Eunice’s story took an encouraging turn, the war in Ukraine is worsening an existing global food crisis. Together, Russia and Ukraine supply almost 30% of the world’s wheat (plus barley, sunflower seed oil, and corn), feeding billions of people. With Russia’s exports hit by strict sanctions and Ukraine’s planting season disrupted by the fighting, a huge source of the world’s food supply remains trapped. Combined with the skyrocketing costs of fuel and fertilizer, the conflict has sent global food prices, already high post-covid, soaring. Without urgent support, other stories might take a turn towards malnutrition or starvation.