Global hunger is on the rise at an unprecedented rate. Find out how you can answer hunger with hope.
12 Dec, 2022
To answer hunger with hope today, you can give $50 and feed a family for a month.
The rural community of Panique on the island of Romblon, Philippines, is home to generations of farmers. With over 10 million hectares of land ready for cultivation, this South-East Asian economy relies heavily on agriculture. Yet Filipino farmers remain among the poorest and one of the most disadvantaged groups in the country. Many farmers do not own their land and are largely at the mercy of landlords, traders or middlemen.
Cherry, Aileen and Marissa are three mothers struggling to make ends meet in Romblon. Cherry resorts to borrowing money from neighbours when her children fall ill, while Aileen struggles to find a steady job. Marissa feels helpless as she waits for her husband to come home at the end of each day. He often returns with little to no income.
Life is hard in Romblon and food insecurity is not a new challenge for the people that call it home. However, natural disasters and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have made a difficult situation even more challenging—and it’s not just in the Philippines. Countries around the world are facing severe food shortages resulting in a new epidemic: the global food crisis.
What is the global food crisis?
According to the United Nations, the world is now moving backwards in its efforts to fight food insecurity and malnutrition.
Food insecurity occurs when a person doesn’t have regular access to enough nutritious food. It’s caused when food simply isn’t available or when a person doesn’t have the resources to obtain it, like for a family living in poverty.
If action isn’t taken, it can cause malnutrition, threatening a child’s development and even their life. According to the World Food Program, as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night. The current food crisis is due to intensifying global events and other complex factors including the war in Ukraine, extreme weather and droughts, and the prolonged effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How severe is it?
Many families faced hunger and food shortages during the pandemic. Now, with the global food crisis, things are worse. According to the United Nations, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 135 million people were acutely food insecure, meaning they did not have consistent access to food.
Now, that number has doubled to 276 million people who are acutely food insecure—more than ten times Australia’s population.
All of us are feeling the pinch of rising food costs, but for families in poverty, the food crisis is upending their lives. Food insecurity threatens to undermine and even reverse decades of global progress in the eradication of extreme poverty. The World Bank reports that for each one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people are thrown into extreme poverty worldwide.
Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, the World Food Program reports a 25% increase in acute hunger. Households in emerging economies are found to be spending an average 25 per cent of their budgets on food—this figure increases up to 40 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 60 per cent in Haiti. The impact of rising inflation has placed families around the world in desperate situations.
While there is no indication as to how long the global food crisis will last, if action isn’t taken, vulnerable children and their families could be feeling the devastating impact for years to come.
What is causing the global food crisis?
Extreme weather and drought have collided with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and rising inflation, creating a ‘perfect storm’ that has resulted in a global food crisis.
Lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic devastated family livelihoods, the economy and disrupted supply chains around the world. This left one in eight people food insecure. Two years later, these families are still struggling to put food on the table.
Conflict is the biggest driver of hunger globally—it is responsible for 65% of people currently facing hunger and food insecurity. The war between Russia and Ukraine has only worsened the crisis that originated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia and Ukraine are responsible for supplying almost thirty percent of the world’s wheat and thirteen percent of global fertilizer. The impact of the war has severely disrupted food production and distribution around the world. As the conflict continues, low-income households continue to struggle to deal with the resulting inflation costs.
Extreme weather conditions around the world are having an equally destructive impact as hurricanes and droughts disrupt harvests and inflate food prices. For countries that rely on agriculture as their main industry, these extreme weather conditions are devastating. Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are approaching their fourth consecutive season of drought, disrupting vital agriculture production and compounding the impact on already vulnerable population groups.
How is the crisis impacting children living in poverty?
The global food crisis is affecting many of Compassion’s partner countries, including Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana, Colombia and Sri Lanka.
As food prices climb, so do hunger and malnutrition in young children. The impact of childhood malnutrition is catastrophic and has both short and long-term effects. The risks of malnutrition include:
- Diabetes, cardiovascular problems and cancer later in life
- Growth stunting and wasting
- Poor academic performance and intellectual development
- Increased prevalence of attention deficit disorders
- Child marriage, as girls are offered in marriage arrangements for dowries that will feed their families
- Child labour, as children leave school early to support their families
- Premature death
As is often the case, children are the most vulnerable to global events but the least able to change their situation.
How are Compassion’s local church partners responding?
Partnering with over 8,200 local churches in more than 25 countries around the world, Compassion is leading a local-first response to the global food crisis. The local church is well positioned to respond quickly and effectively. It's been there before, will be there during, and will remain long after this crisis.
Decades of established trust and relationships between the local church and their communities means aid can be delivered neighbour to neighbour.
Compassion’s response is two-fold: meeting children and families’ urgent nutrition needs now while working towards a sustainable solution to stop ongoing hunger.
In the short-term, local partners will provide immediate food packages to those who will benefit most from them, while also working towards long-term food security through distributing seeds, fertiliser, livestock and training on how to build and maintain home gardens and small-scale farms.
The farming mothers of Romblon
Even before the global food crisis, Compassion has been working with communities around the world to develop long-term sustainable solutions to hunger.
On the island of Romblon, in the Philippines, Compassion’s local church partner is dedicated to training the families of children so they can fight hunger with agricultural solutions.
Anastacio, the centre director says, “We established relationships with the Department of Agriculture and the local government so that we could supply seeds, fertilizers, pigs, feed and other agricultural supplies to the families. We also provided training to the parents.”
Cherry, the mother of three-year-old Ashley, chose to raise pigs to improve her family’s livelihood. With the help of her local church, Cherry purchased a pig to feed, raise and sell, something she was experienced in because her family used to raise pigs when she was a child. Using her skills, Cherry sold the pig she received and was able to buy two more. Her business has been so successful she now runs a store selling swine food and other agricultural supplies.
Aileen, and many other mothers, typically plant vegetable gardens while their husbands look for other ways to earn a living. She says her gardening enterprise has never seen this kind of success before. The local church organised available plots of land for Aileen and five mothers in her group to cultivate. They also negotiated with landowners, who agreed to receive just a two percent cut of the produce. Most Filipino farmers around the country receive a wage for their labour and don’t typically receive the benefits of their hard work. However, due to this arrangement, Aileen and the other mothers in her group have the potential to earn as much as three times more than the average wage.
“We are all grateful for the training, the opportunity and the seedlings that got us started,” says Aileen.
“It is clear that Compassion’s program takes care not just of our children but also of the entire family.”
Four-year-old Princess Marjorie’s mother, Marissa, is also part of a gardening initiative that grows several types of vegetables, but her favourite is ginger. She has been encouraged by Anastacio and the staff at the local development centre to make and sell ginger tea, which she has been doing quite successfully. Marissa says she is grateful to the local church for giving her the opportunity to provide for her family.
Cherry, Aileen and Marissa are just three of the mothers that have benefitted from the local church’s agricultural initiatives. Cherry now teaches other mothers how to raise pigs while Anastacio and other church leaders are planning to teach mothers how to do inventory, cost analysis, budgeting and marketing to continue to grow their skills and their businesses.
“That is where we are headed—to go big, so it is important for the mothers to receive the necessary training,” says Anastacio.
How can you help?
At a time when food insecurity is on the rise at an unprecedented rate, your support will enable more stories of hope like Cherry, Aileen and Marrissa’s to be told. While the local church is responding to the needs of their community, there is still a long way to go.
You can empower the local church to bring hope where it's needed most.
A gift of just $50 can provide food for an entire family for one month.
Find out how you can be a part of the solution, and answer hunger with hope today!
Words by Sidhara Udalagama with field reporting by Edwin Estioko
Answer Hunger With Hope
345 million people are facing acute food insecurity. You can answer hunger with hope.