“We weren’t like this before,” says Wodome, a devoted father living in Togo. The rising cost of living throughout the country is forcing hard-working parents to make heartbreaking decisions for the sake of their children—but hope is not lost.
17 May, 2023
In Togo, prolonged droughts and disease epidemics have had a devastating effect on livelihoods and access to food. Poverty has long been a battle in Togo, particularly in rural communities, with 55 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Now, Togo is facing unprecedented levels of severe food insecurity and malnutrition.
According to Koffi Ahonon, the National Director for Compassion Togo, 80 per cent of Compassion assisted families have been harshly affected by the global food crisis. “The food in the markets became expensive due to the increase of the prices of fuel and transportation. Consequently, caregivers were barely able to provide two meals a day for their children,” says Koffi.
For these hard-working parents, watching their children go hungry is heartbreaking.
“Hearing my children cry out of hunger is very painful,” says Ayitevi, a mother living in Togo. “It is painful seeing them go to bed hungry.”
Her husband Aboni feels the same, often losing sleep over their situation. “It gives me so much sorrow when we cannot afford food,” he says.
With the significant increase in food prices in Togo, this young couple can no longer meet their family’s basic needs on their own. Aboni resorted to farming when costs first shot up. But the price of fertiliser quickly skyrocketed and his efforts to grow crops were unsuccessful.
Aboni and Ayitevi aren’t alone in their struggles. Not far away, Wodome and Mariette tell a similar story.
“There are times when we don’t eat. We sleep with empty stomachs. We were not like this before. I was a moto taxi driver and I paid for my wife’s apprenticeship myself,” says Wodome.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Togo, Mariette’s once thriving workshop in her community could no longer support her family. To cover costs, Wodome left his career as a taxi driver and turned to farming, but soon even this was not enough to account for the rapidly rising cost of living.
Togo is highly dependent on imports of food and other resources, so international crises quickly exacerbate hunger for Togolese people. For those like Wodome and Aboni who work in agriculture and farming, rising fertiliser and energy costs are having a devastating effect on livelihoods. According to the World Bank (2023), extreme poverty has increased to 30.6 per cent nationally in Togo, and 45.9 per cent in rural areas.
“Before, a bag of fertiliser was sold to us at 12,000 francs (approximately AUD$31). Now a bag of fertiliser is 18,000 francs (approximately AUD$45),” says Wodome. “The year before, I harvested three big bags of corn and more. This year, I don’t even know if I will have one bag.”
Both of these brave couples face a devastating reality: they do not have enough to feed their children.
Aboni and Ayitevi say their hearts break when their children ask them why there’s nothing to eat each night.
“The only thing I can do is bless water, give it to them to drink and reassure them that brighter days will come,” says Ayitevi.
Watching their five children go hungry, Wodome and Mariette were left with no choice but to send two of their children away to live with their grandparents.
“It was really hard for me to let them go,” says Mariette, but hunger left them with no other option.
The struggles of hunger are not new for families living in Togo, but the global food crisis is pushing food insecurity to devastating and unprecedented levels. Since 2019, the number of people facing acute food insecurity has more than doubled from 135 million to 345 million globally. In Togo alone, over 23 per cent of children under 5 are chronically malnourished. Like any loving parent, Aboni and Ayitevi, and Wodome and Mariette, will do anything to ensure their children don’t fall into that statistic.
Aboni and Ayitevi hope for a better future for their children. “God preserves our lives and wakes us up to meet the next day,” says Ayitevi.
At first, hope felt out of reach for Wodome and Mariette. “But we pray to God that a source of hope will present itself,” says Wodome.
Thankfully for these families, while their struggles were far from over, a reason for hope did arrive.
“When I was pregnant with my fifth child, things were very difficult for us,” says Mariette. “I heard they were enrolling pregnant women at the Compassion centre, so I went to meet with the project staff. By the grace of God, when I got there, they enrolled me.”
“Being supported by Compassion is a very good thing for us because they help with food, they help us with medical fees and with our kids’ schooling,” she says.
While Aboni and Ayitevi continue to hope for food prices to come down, the local church has stepped into the gap.
In partnership with Compassion, their church is providing the family with lifesaving support, including food packs and financial assistance for their business. Their young daughter has been registered in the Child Sponsorship Program and, for this, the couple say they are grateful to God.
“My prayer and hope is that through this very child, God will change our story,” says Ayitevi.
Sponsorship has given Mariette a similar dream for the future of her family. “I pray that through our kids, our life situation will change,” she says.
The harsh realities of inflation and hunger are far from over for these families, but with the ongoing support of Compassion and their local church, there is hope for their future.
How is Compassion responding to the global food crisis?
Compassion is leading a local-first response to the global food crisis through partnerships with over 8,500 local churches across four continents. Our church partners are responding in two ways:
Meeting vulnerable families’ immediate nutritional needs through the delivery of food packages.
Equipping families with seeds, fertiliser, livestock and agricultural training to stop ongoing hunger.
The local church has decades of established community trust and is best positioned to assist in this crisis—it has been there before, will be there during and will remain long after the crisis.
“The church partners have been positioned as change makers in their respective communities, carrying Christ's joy and hope along to children and families through Compassion’s ministry,” says Compassion Togo National Director, Koffi.
Could you join the fight against hunger?
Ayitevi, Aboni, Wodome and Mariette are not alone in their experiences. Families all over Togo are feeling the weight of rising costs, but you can make an impact.
With a gift of $100, you can provide food packs that will feed two families for a month. These food packs are packed and distributed by the local church and are a lifesaving gift for families facing unthinkable hunger. A global crisis like this requires a global response—and you are an important part of the Compassion global neighbourhood.
Could you be part of the solution and answer hunger with hope today?
Words by Abigail Hogarth with field reporting by Roy Radido and Kyle Jaster.
Answer Hunger With Hope
345 million people are facing acute food insecurity. You can answer hunger with hope.