This Sunday, October 16, is World Food Day, an international day to raise awareness and act on behalf of those suffering from hunger. According to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), as many as 828 million people – about 10 percent of the world's population – go to bed hungry every night.
Although World Food Day is celebrated each year and remains one of the most observed days on the U.N. calendar, Compassion International finds this World Food Day especially significant.
A "perfect storm" of global challenges has reversed decades of progress in the fight against poverty and hunger in low and middle-income countries around the world. Compounding factors like extreme weather, regional conflicts, political instability, COVID-19, inflation and economic shocks, fuel and fertilizer shortages, and the war in Ukraine have created a global food crisis unlike any other.
Currently, 345 million people are facing acute, or crisis-level, food insecurity – up from 276 million at the start of the calendar year. That's two and a half times the number of people experiencing crisis levels of hunger than before the pandemic began.
As a child development organization committed to caring for more than 2 million babies, children, and young adults, Compassion has seen the threat of hunger and malnutrition in the families and communities as food insecurity climbs in its field countries.
Eli, a young father in the Karamoja region in Uganda, experienced this threat firsthand. Karamoja has experienced soaring inflation and insecurity due to drought and the war in Ukraine, and hunger has intensified, causing cattle raiders to steal livestock and rob families in search of food.
Eli's family was robbed by raiders this past spring. The raiders took 57 chickens, clothes, food, household items, and savings of $158 from his business – money he had set aside to use to buy land. Before the raid, Eli was able to sustain his family; but after the raid, his business collapsed and his family struggled.
He shares, "Prices have shot up. I need to spend at least $5.30 on my family, but I cannot afford it. I am the breadwinner here, and everyone expects me to provide, but everything is expensive … I can hardly make $2.69 to feed my family." And his family is not the exception. He notes that many go hungry, and the lucky eat once a day.
Eli's five-year-old daughter participates in Compassion's program, and his family would be considered lucky. They received food from Compassion's local church partner following the raid, as they did previously during times of hunger or calamity.
The global food crisis is impacting families like Eli's all over the world – and pushing many to the brink of starvation. The impact on children is severe. Hunger leaves them more vulnerable to death, life-threatening illnesses, poor academic performance and intellectual development, gender-based violence and abuse, child marriage (as girls are offered in marriage arrangement for dowries that will feed their families), and child labor (as children leave school to support their families). A recent UNICEF study looked at 15 developing countries and found that every minute, another child will be suffering from severe malnutrition.
That's why Compassion launched a large-scale global fundraising effort across its 15 global partner offices to equip the local church to continue to meet the critical needs of children and families during these challenging times. Supporters can donate towards food packs; $50 will provide a family of five with a one month supply of essentials like rice eggs, meat, milk, and corn. They can also give towards sustainable solutions, such as livestock (chickens, goats, or pigs), mitigation (seeds, basic tools, and training), or agriculture (vegetable seeds or fruit trees), to help families like Eli's find hope and build resilience in the long run.
According to Sidney Muisyo, chief program officer, "Compassion is committed to facing these daunting circumstances with the conviction that vulnerable children and youth everywhere should have access to the essentials of life, such as food, and to the opportunities necessary for them to thrive. Our church partners will continue to work with families of children and youth to ensure that those families are developing long-term food resiliency long after this crisis has subsided."