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Local churches serve as first responders in global food crisis

Colorado Springs, US, 28 Sep. 2022, 14:17 CEST
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In response to a growing global food crisis, Compassion International has deployed a not-so-secret weapon to bring about relief in hungry communities: the organization's large network of 8,000+ frontline church partners.

Over the past two years, the pandemic created a dire situation regarding hunger and malnutrition, reversing decades of progress made in the fight against poverty and hunger in low and middle-income countries around the world. Unfortunately, the world didn't have much time to recover. Conflict, economic shocks, and weather extremes led to even greater food insecurity in 2021.

According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report, 828 million people, or nearly 10 percent of the world's population, were affected by hunger in 2021 – 46 million people more from a year earlier. Around 2.3 billion people in the world, or nearly 30 percent of the world's population, were moderately or severely food insecure – 350 million more compared to before the pandemic began.

The toll on children took a drastic turn. An estimated 45 million children under the age of five were suffering from wasting, a deadly form of malnutrition that increases a child's risk of death by up to 12 times; and 149 million children under the age of five had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of nutrition.

And if the 2021 statistics weren't bad enough, the war in Ukraine intensified an existing crisis in 2022. Together, Russia and Ukraine supply almost 30% of the world's wheat (plus barley, sunflower seed oil, and corn), feeding billions. Combined with skyrocketing costs of fuel and fertilizer, the conflict has sent global food prices, already high post-covid, soaring.

Currently, 345 million people are facing acute, or crisis-level, food insecurity – up from 276 million at the start of the calendar year.

So where does this complex "perfect storm" of a global food crisis leave children in poverty today? Sidney Muisyo, chief program officer at Compassion, shares, "Children in poverty remain especially vulnerable to the mounting food crisis. Tragically, this increases the chances that children and youth will be exploited or kept from pursuing their education. And that is not all. We are seeing this food crisis push girls into early marriages as families become desperate to feed themselves. Recently, UNICEF looked at 15 developing countries and found that every minute, another child will be suffering from severe wasting. This type of severe undernourishment also makes children highly vulnerable to life-threatening diseases."

This place of desperation is exactly where Compassion's local church partners are meeting hungry children and families. These "first responders" are trained to identify malnutrition and hunger in their communities and take immediate action to address it. In the short term, they are halting food insecurity by delivering food packs (full of essentials, such as rice, beans, flour, and oil) and completing cash transfers, giving hungry families the freedom to purchase supplies and cover basic expenses. And they are empowering families with seeds, fertilizer, livestock, and training in building home gardens and small-scale farms, so they'll have sustainable food supplies.

Palamanga Ouali, vice president of Compassion's Africa region, explains, "The local church is located in the communities where the need is most felt. Apart from preaching the gospel, I have seen the church mobilize local resources, even in the midst of the lockdowns, to cater for the needy and vulnerable in the church and community. The church knows where the vulnerable are in the communities and knows the needs of the people. Our hope is that the church, with the right intervention and resources, will continue to put smiles on the faces of those they serve while giving the vulnerable the opportunity to hope and thrive again."

So how can the developed world come alongside local churches, as they bring hope and stability to hungry communities?

Become part of the solution through support. Compassion recently 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 the global food crisis. 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), agriculture (vegetable seeds or fruit trees).

Pray for local churches around the world. Pray that God would equip these churches and staff members with wisdom, protection, supplies, and endurance from His "unlimited resources" (Ephesians 3:16, NLT) to fight hunger and provide food security to children and families in their communities.

To learn more about the global food crisis and Compassion's solutions, visit www.compassion.com/globalfight.