“I was scared to face my children and watch them go to bed hungry for the second night. As soon as I walked home, they tried to console me with their hugs and smiles. That night I decided to end the misery,” —Samiya, a mother in Harar, Ethiopia.

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It was a little after the morning rush hour, but the roads were still busy with buses and trucks hurtling past to make it out of town before the strength of the sun emerged in the day. Suddenly, in the middle of the busiest street in Harar, a town in Ethiopia, the screech of tires, loud car honks, and screams of passersby filled the air. A woman had walked into oncoming traffic.

Shocked by her actions, the traffic police patrolling the nearby street ran to her rescue. Samiya, the mother of three young children, was pulled out of harm's way and miraculously faced no severe injuries.

As the reality of the situation began to dawn on her, Samiya sat by the roadside in tears, struggling to find the words to respond to the question on everyone’s mind: “Why?”

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The answer to that question and the decision behind her actions lay in the days preceding that morning. It was Christmas Day, and while many others around the world were celebrating the holiday with fun and feasting, Samiya sat and watched as her three children ate the last of the food they had in the house.

Samiya sat silently, anxious about how to provide their next meal.

Dinner time came quickly, and the children silently filled their stomachs with water and went to sleep. They never asked for food, never grumbled or uttered a word of complaint.

“The fact that they didn’t even ask me for food shattered my heart more than that there was nothing I could give them for dinner,” says Samiya. “My last born even told me his tummy was still full from the food he had in the morning.”

Heartbroken but helpless to change her family’s situation, Samiya and her children went to bed hungry. The next day, Samiya was up early to resume her usual spot at the local market selling leaves and shrubs she had collected earlier. The meagre income she received from this trade was insufficient compared to the price of food and the rising cost of living in Ethiopia. However, that day proved to be worse than meagre; she sold nothing and earned nothing. Her children went to bed with only water in their stomachs yet again.

Samiya could not face the thought of repeating a day where she had nothing to feed her children, and that’s when she decided to do the unthinkable. “What tormented me the most was my children’s silence. I wished they would complain, cry or even go to the neighbours to ask for food,” says Samiya.

She decided to take the only course of action that seemed available to her—she would sacrifice herself so that the insurance money could cover her children’s food expenses.

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The desperation and hopelessness that Samiya felt in that moment led her to make a devastating decision. While it may seem extreme, sadly, Samiya’s story is not unique. Millions of people around the world are faced with unthinkable decisions every day due to the lack of food.

238 million people around the world still face the gripping hopelessness of hunger and food insecurity.

The situation is still dire, and the global food crisis is far from over. A deadly combination of conflict, economic shocks and climate extremes has put food out of reach for millions of people across the world. The situation becomes even more complex in the aftermath of the pandemic and climbing food and energy prices.

The World Bank predicts that food insecurity will be one of the critical challenges faced in 2024 and beyond. An estimated 42.3 million people across 45 countries will be in emergency or worse levels of acute food insecurity in 2024. Without immediate and urgent intervention, these populations will be at risk of falling into famine conditions.

Globally, an estimated 45 million children under five suffer from wasting. Wasting is a condition where a child is considered medically too thin for their height and is the result of recent rapid weight loss or the failure to gain weight. It usually occurs when a child has an inadequate quantity and insufficient quality of food. Wasting in young children is a medical emergency with a significantly high risk of mortality and has negative long-term consequences for ongoing development

6.8 per cent of children in Ethiopia under the age of five suffer from this condition. In a country where food insecurity and malnutrition are still a major concern, it is estimated that 20.1 million people will still require food support this year. Many people in Ethiopia have had to flee their homes and villages due to the escalation of conflict in the north and the severe drought in the south and southeast parts of the country.

For many Ethiopians, the ability to feed themselves and their families seems to slip further and further away with every passing day.

The situation is critical, but hope is not lost.

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Jesus teaches in Matthew 22:34-40 that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbours. Compassion is leading a local-first response to the global food crisis in Ethiopia and around the world through partnerships with over 8,600 local churches working as the hands and feet of Jesus to respond to the crisis.

The church is rising up and bringing the love and care of Jesus to those who need it most by providing short-term support like life-saving food packs and long-term support like equipping families with seeds, fertiliser, livestock and agricultural training to stop ongoing hunger.

For mothers like Samiya, this support is a lifeline.

“As soon as the traffic police released me, I ran to the church,” says Samiya. “I told them it had been three days since my children had eaten. The staff cried with me in disbelief.”

Samiya’s daughter, Feven, is part of Compassion’s child development program at the local church in Harar. As soon as the local staff heard about Samiya’s situation, they provided her with enough food supplies to feed her family. Samiya was overjoyed that her children had food to eat for the first time in three days.

“The Compassion centre has been by our side consistently,” says 14-year-old Feven. “Seeing my mum smile when I returned from school meant there was food at home. I knew the centre stepped in just in time as they always did.”

But this was not the end of the support extended to Samiya’s family. In the coming days, Compassion’s local church partner was able to provide food items including 50 kg of teff (a local grain), 3 l of oil, 5 kg of peas, 25 kg of flour, and 20 kg of barley for Samiya’s family and families in the surrounding area. This provision of hope and security was overwhelming for families struggling to feed their children just one meal a day.

“I could hardly stand. I knelt and praised God,” says Samiya. “I felt seen by God. My life was spared so I could see the goodness of the Lord.”

Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Samiya’s story is a testimony of God’s love and care for those who are desperate, hopeless, those who feel unseen and like they have no place to turn. He is near to the broken hearted and He works through His people and the church to bring His everlasting hope to the hopeless.

This, Samiya says, is the foundation of her hope.

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Today, Samiya still works hard to provide for her children as food costs continue to rise.

“Times are difficult, and every day is a struggle,” says Samiya. “But through all the struggle, knowing I have a place to run to and people who care for us gives me great comfort and a reason to live every day.”

Samiya and her children know they are never alone. God sees and cares for them and brings His provision and answer through Compassion’s local church partner in Harar.

While we may not be able to help on the ground, we can still love and care for our global neighbours facing unthinkable situations. James 5:16 tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we now can pray powerful and effective prayers on behalf of those in vulnerable situations. We have the opportunity to intercede for provision, peace and comfort.

Will you take a moment right now and pray for Samiya and vulnerable families like hers across the world? Here’s what you can focus on:

  • Pray that Samiya will find sufficient employment to support her children.
  • Pray for families in Ethiopia and around the world struggling to feed their children.
  • Pray for families forced to take extreme measures because of the food crisis; pray for peace and provision.

You can also talk to your friends and family to raise awareness about the global food crisis. Perhaps you can share Samiya’s story with them and encourage them to continue to pray for her family and millions of families around the world facing extreme hunger.

“God bless everyone who generously gives to help us,” prays Samiya. “I smile in the middle of all the crisis because of the Compassion centre.”

You can support families just like Samiya’s by empowering the local church to provide life-saving food packs and long-term solutions for families facing hunger. Will you answer hunger with hope today?

Donate now

Written by Sidhara Udalagama, Compassion Australia, with local reporting by Tigist Gizachew, Compassion Ethiopia.