In Nicaragua, you’re never far from a farmer… or from an empty stomach.
Agriculture is the main source of income for most Nicaraguan families, but that doesn’t mean they’re eating well. On the contrary, nearly 1 in 5 Nicaraguan children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Many of this Central American country’s children start their day with a breakfast of bread and coffee — the only calories keeping them going through the school day — and they can only hope there will be something more for them to eat before bed.
The causes of chronic malnutrition are always complex, but we can identify three big factors that routinely prevent families in Nicaragua from providing their children with adequate food.
Thirteen percent of Nicaragua’s population lives on less than $3.20 a day (based on numbers gathered prior to COVID-19, which likely worsened the problem). The country’s marginalized rural population has few opportunities for economic advancement as families rely on low-paying farmhand jobs and on growing their own small gardens. Many farmers depend on a single, low-value crop such as coffee beans, and they lack the investment capital to put into expanding and diversifying their businesses.
Related: Economic Empowerment in Nicaragua
Many Nicaraguan communities struggle to provide quality schools for their children. The local elementary school might be nothing more than a dilapidated one-room building with a chalkboard, one teacher and some assistants. The poorest children may never advance beyond primary school (only 45% of boys enroll in secondary school), while those who do finish school are unlikely to advance to college-level studies. The lack of academic credentials and practical skills training prevents workers from pursuing the higher earnings that would enable them to meet their nutritional needs.
Geographically, Nicaragua is at high risk of natural disasters. It has many volcanoes and is often hit with earthquakes, hurricanes and drought. These frequent stressors make it difficult to build and maintain strong infrastructure and add to the hardships faced by the poor. Families lose homes and livelihoods, and any economic gains they may have made are wiped out, leaving them with no option but to rebuild from scratch.
Chronic hunger has a devastating effect on Nicaraguans’ health, finances and overall quality of life.
According to UN figures, 23% of Nicaraguan children under 5 years old show signs of stunting, and nearly 30% are anemic. Similarly, more than 25% of pregnant women suffer from anemia and other deficiencies, which exact a harsh toll on their bodies and result in low birth weights for their babies. Entire families are suffering from malnourishment, and the consequences are passed down from generation to generation, putting children at a medical disadvantage from the day they are born.
Weakened by hunger, children cannot experience their full potential. Their grades suffer, the development of both body and brain falls behind, and the high energy of childhood is replaced by sluggishness, dullness and a general failure to thrive. This is why we must intervene!
Our partners on the ground in Nicaragua are working tirelessly to resolve the devastating hunger problems experienced by poor families, and faithful Catholics around the world support this mission by working with Cross Catholic Outreach to send both critical funding and tangible aid. Our donors provide monetary support for life-changing food programs, as well as shipments of Vitafood, a fortified rice product specifically formulated to help malnourished bodies recover. Working together, these grants-in-aid and gifts-in-kind have the power to strengthen impoverished households, giving them the boost they need to face the future with dignity.
One partner Cross Catholic Outreach is working with in Nicaragua to reduce chronic malnutrition and transform lives is Rainbow Network.
Visiting any of Rainbow Network’s feeding centers in rural Nicaragua is always an eye-opening experience. Inside, you typically find groups of smiling children eating hearty portions of rice with stewed chicken and vegetables — but after a few brief conversations with the children and their parents, it is easy to see that their lives have not always been so happy.
Ask any of them what they would be eating if the feeding center did not exist, and they will give you roughly the same response:
“Next to nothing.”
Thankfully, through our friends at Rainbow Network, the most vulnerable children receive nutritious meals Monday through Friday and are able to further their education with full stomachs. This is a multifaceted outreach that transforms communities by addressing their various needs, from food to education to house construction. Rainbow provides these services compassionately in the name of Christ so that the hurting may be made whole — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Tragically, there are many boys and girls in Nicaragua and around the world who still live on “next to nothing.”
Today, with your help, we can guarantee lifesaving meals for the poor. Your support will help our mission partners set faith in action by filling empty stomachs, restoring hope and bringing joy to those who are fearful of what the future might bring.
Please help bless these hungry children and their families, renewing their strength and giving them a much-needed reminder of God’s loving provision in their lives!
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Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2023, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.