Ten-year-old Shelton has always lived in poverty, and he remembers feeling daily hunger pangs in the early years of his life. Like many women living in the poorest communities of Mozambique, his mother struggled to provide for the family, and meals were sacrificed when her income was low.
“My life was a disgrace,” he said. “I lived in the Gaza Province, and getting enough to eat was difficult. I had three brothers, and we lived in a rudimentary house, and my mother sold things to make a living.”
Shelton’s story is not unique in Mozambique. The sub-Saharan African country is mired in poverty, and as a result many children suffer extreme hunger — even to the point of malnutrition.
Mozambique is ranked 181st out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, and 46.1% of the population lives in poverty. Food insecurity has reached heartbreaking levels, recently leaving nearly one million people food insecure in the country’s northern region.
Few job opportunities are available to Mozambicans, so there is little room for advancement. Most people work in the mining industry, agriculture or the informal sector (CIA World Factbook). Poor families survive by maintaining small farms, working as day laborers or street vendors.
With your help, Cross Catholic Outreach ministry partners can fill hungry stomachs while ministering to hurting hearts. One of these ministries, Association Cross Mozambique (ACM), ministers to vulnerable children like Shelton by providing daily meals and monthly food baskets.
Mozambique’s hunger is linked to years of internal strife, including a bloody civil war, the HIV/AIDS crisis, natural disasters and economic instability. Unfortunately, 80% of Mozambicans can’t afford to maintain a nutritious diet, while 42.4% of children have stunted growth due to malnutrition (World Food Programme).
Among women of child-bearing age, 51% are anemic. Mozambique has the 10th worst infant mortality rate in the world, with 63 deaths per 1,000 live births (CIA World Factbook). Poor prenatal nutrition is a contributing factor to these devastating statistics, with expectant mothers unable to afford enough food to start their babies’ lives on the right track. For the first 1,000 days of life after conception, proper nutrition is critical to development, the ability to learn and future health outcomes.
Because of recent jihadist attacks in the northern part of the country, nearly one million people are believed to be displaced and hungry in that region (Al Jazeera). As they evacuate their homes, they’re leaving behind their usual sources of income and resources — such as land, livestock and other items that help produce livelihoods.
Not only is recent conflict a contributing factor, but poor Mozambicans are still impacted by the ramifications of the country’s bloody civil war, which lasted from 1977 to 1992. Up to one million people died in this war (Population Reference Bureau), and much of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed, leaving future generations responsible for picking up the pieces.
Mozambique lost an entire generation to Africa’s HIV/AIDS crisis. The disease continues to kill 51,000 people each year, and 2 million people are currently living with the virus. This crisis is mainly responsible for the country’s low life expectancy of 56 years (CIA World Factbook).
HIV/AIDS has a dramatic impact on the family life of Mozambicans, with children losing their parents and becoming orphans, and elderly citizens losing their adult children to the virus. UNICEF estimates that 2 million children have lost one or both parents, primarily due to HIV/AIDS. This has placed a heavy burden on surviving relatives, many of whom do not have the resources to meet the nutritional needs of these children.
This means that many vulnerable children start working at an early age, sometimes dropping out of school to help support their families, with 24% of children between the ages of 5 to 14 working menial jobs to keep their bellies full.
Mozambique is susceptible to natural disasters and has suffered through many droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and epidemics in the past several decades. It is the third most vulnerable country to disasters in Africa (USAID). Since 80% of people depend on agriculture in some way, disasters impact the economy and lives of the poor significantly. Surviving one disaster after another, the poor struggle to get back on their feet and regain their livelihoods.
COVID-19 dealt a devastating blow to Mozambique’s informal economy, which makes up 80% of the total labor force. The informal economy consists of jobs and activities that are not recorded in a nation’s GDP, and most of the workers are considered low income. Lockdowns and social distancing measures limited street vendors and small-business owners’ ability to earn a basic living, pushing the poor into greater distress.
Cross Catholic Outreach is serving as the hands and feet of Jesus to hungry families in Mozambique, working through in-country ministry partners to feed the hungry and share the hope of Christ. While supporting feeding programs is only one part of our mission, we consider it a priority because extreme hunger can lead to many other problems in a community. But good nutrition can be a starting point to escape generational poverty because it leads to better health outcomes, increased educational levels and hope for future generations. One of our ministry partners, ACM, is leading the charge in the fight against hunger by ministering to Mozambique’s most vulnerable.
Based in Mozambique’s capital city, ACM is on the front lines of ministering to Mozambique’s orphans and vulnerable children. Doroteia Balane, the director of the ministry, feels like God has called her to meet the needs of orphans and vulnerable children like Shelton. ACM provides a holistic range of services to both children and the elderly, including nutritious food, education, medical care, safe housing and Catholic spiritual formation.
Thanks to Cross Catholic Outreach’s donors, Shelton receives daily breakfast and lunch and a monthly food basket to take home to his family through ACM’s services. Not only has this changed Shelton’s life, but it has also brought great relief to his grandmother, who is his primary provider. With his nutritional needs met by the ministry, Shelton can go to school and doesn’t have to find odd jobs to earn enough money to buy food.
“Now I can learn so that when I grow older, I can become a pilot like I’ve always wanted to,” he said proudly. Shelton also participates in catechism classes offered through ACM, where he has learned to value the things of God.
By supporting the work of ACM, you will provide nutrition to vulnerable children. Good nutrition is a building block for future success.
Mozambique is a nation in turmoil, and the poor are crying out for our help now more than ever. The Bible tells us the importance of demonstrating our faith by meeting the needs of others: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:15-17).
We hope you will take this opportunity to put your faith into action by standing with Cross Catholic Outreach to support our in-country ministry partners’ efforts to feed the hungry. Your generosity could be an answer to prayer for a young boy like Shelton. When you join Cross Catholic Outreach to fight hunger in Mozambique, you will do more than fill an empty stomach. You will equip boys and girls to get an education, nurture them with spiritual blessings and — ultimately — transform their lives for the better!
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, 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.