For nine of Compassion’s partner countries, the global food crisis is having a devastating effect on the population. Children in poverty are particularly vulnerable as malnutrition quickly becomes a fight between life and death.
23 Feb, 2023
The number of people on our planet with insufficient food has more than doubled in just three years, creating a humanitarian emergency we cannot ignore.
There isn’t a shortage of food in the world. Instead, the blame falls on the skyrocketing cost of food and its unequal and disrupted distribution. A combination of conflict, rising costs, extreme weather and the COVID-19 pandemic has left 345 million people facing acute food insecurity—this is an unprecedented crisis.
“Our only chance of lifting millions of people out of hunger is to act together, urgently and with solidarity.” —UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, 2022
Currently, nine of Compassion’s program countries are severely affected by the food crisis. Read on to find out the cause of the crisis in each nation and the challenges they’re facing in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. Ongoing violence since 2016 has left over two million Burkinabés displaced, and the most vulnerable families struggle to access basic infrastructure and resources like health and education.
“My biggest challenge is food security,” says Marcel. “The cost of a 100-kilogram bag of corn reached 37,300 Francs—it used to be less than half that.”
- 80.1% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 26% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 3.9 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes sorghum, nuts, rice and vegetables
In Colombia, food security’s enemy is conflict. For the past 50 years, internal conflict has seen at least five million Colombians displaced by violence. Nearly half the population live in poverty as a result. The nation's food bank has labelled hunger levels as critical.
“In the past, I was sometimes able to buy some fish or meat for my children,” says Marina. “But now, I feel sad because I cannot give them enough food. I feel helpless.”
- 26.5% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 11% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 7.3 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes potato, chicken, beans and fruit
Decades of instability, famine and widespread disease have left millions of Ethiopians living in extreme poverty. Soaring food prices mean the gap between income and what a family’s money can buy grows wider each day. Infant and child mortality rates are high, and malnutrition is common.
For a grandmother like Birtukan, the crisis has forced impossible decisions, like deciding which meal she can afford for her grandchild to eat that day.
“I don’t want Yeresen to go to school without food while her friends are eating,” says Birtukan. “It’s a difficult choice, but sometimes it’s the only choice.”
- 86.8% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 35% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 22.6 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes teff, sorghum, vegetables and meat
The cost of food in Ghana jumps higher each month. Hunger is worse in the north, where persistent drought has inflamed inequality between the north and south. For Ghanaian children in poverty, the wait between meals grows longer, and the threat of trafficking and forced labour draw nearer.
“If we pay school fees and hospital bills but there’s no food to eat at home, then we haven’t done our job thoroughly,” says project director, Ivy.
- 61.2% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 14% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 1.8 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes cassava, plantains, maize and fish
Haiti faces a perfect storm of disasters: the lingering effects of COVID-19, devastating earthquakes, ongoing political unrest and rampant inflation. Each severe in their own right, the combination of these adversities has created a humanitarian crisis in Haiti unlike any other.
“I was contemplating sending my children to an orphanage,” says Acelie. “It broke my heart to see them suffer while I couldn’t provide what they needed.”
- 85.9% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 20% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 5.2 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes rice, wheat, sweet potatoes and bananas
Kenya is facing its worst drought in 40 years—four consecutive rainy seasons have failed throughout the Horn of Africa. Crops and livestock have been decimated, and local children and their families walk for days in search of water to drink. Local families live in desperation. Catherine and her three children are no exception.
“Rain used to be predictable,” says Catherine. “It rained constantly, and I knew when to plant and harvest.”
- 81.1% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 19% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 14 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes maize, rice, beans and potato
Since Sri Lanka defaulted on its debts in early 2022, the entire country has experienced dire fuel shortages, daily electricity cuts and queues of thousands waiting to buy basic groceries. This island nation is also highly susceptible to devastating natural disasters like tsunamis.
“I have to go abroad to work. At least then my children will have three good meals a day if I send money,” says Thamilselvi.
- 49% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 16% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 4.9 million people are facing food insecurity
- Primary diet includes rice, fish, vegetables and fruit
In Togo, prolonged droughts and disease epidemics have a devastating effect on livelihoods and access to food. Togo is also highly dependent on imports of food and other resources. International crises quickly exacerbate hunger for Togolese people.
“Hearing my children cry out of hunger is very painful,” says Ayitevi. “It is painful seeing them go to bed hungry.”
- 55% of the population live below the poverty line
- 81% of people lack access to basic sanitation
- 23.8% of children under 5 are chronically malnourished
- Primary diet includes maize porridge, okra, sweet potato and rice
Many Ugandans continue to deal with the aftermath of the brutal two-decade long civil war which terrorised the country’s north until 2006 and created a severe humanitarian crisis. Since then, prolonged drought, pests and diseases have choked agricultural production.
“The shop was growing and helping the family, but the enemy came and took everything. Now my business has collapsed,” Eli says.
- 82.2% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet
- 28% of children under 5 have stunted growth
- 10.6 million people are facing severe food insecurity
- Primary diet includes cassava, bananas, beans and rice
Compassion's response to the crisis
Hope is not lost. The local and global communities are taking action against hunger.
Compassion is an Australian charity leading a local-first response to the global food crisis with over 8,500 local partners across four continents.
Aid is being delivered by locals who have decades of established community trust and are best positioned to assist in this crisis.
Our partners are responding in two ways:
Short-term aid Meeting vulnerable families’ immediate nutritional needs by delivering food packages.
Long-term solutions Equipping families with seeds, fertiliser, livestock and agricultural training to stop ongoing hunger.
How your donation will answer hunger with hope
The global food crisis is complex and the need is staggering. But we cannot turn away from our global neighbours. You can answer hunger with hope today.
With your tax-deductible donation of $200, you could feed four families in poverty for a month, giving them much-needed time to implement long-term solutions with the help of our local partners.
Words by Abigail Hogarth
Answer Hunger With Hope
345 million people are facing acute food insecurity. You can answer hunger with hope.