Every day, nearly 811 million people do not get enough food to maintain their health. Although we saw the rate of world hunger steadily decrease over the past few decades (and plateau from 2014 to 2019), the situation has recently changed. The COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in conflicts in developing countries, and the impacts of climate change have caused the rate of malnourishment to rise from 8.4 percent in 2019 to 9.9 percent in 2020. While this percentage change may seem small, it means that as many as 161 millionadditional people went hungry in 2020.
Hunger and chronic malnourishment are closely interlinked with the poverty cycle. Less income typically means families eat less. Less eating means less energy to go find work or food, and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, although some areas may have access to enough food to physically fill their bellies, the food they eat lacks the nutrients required to meet their body’s needs. This is known as malnutrition. In addition to the classic signs of malnutrition (low body weight, distended stomach, bony limbs, etc.), this extreme level of hunger can cause lifelong health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, poor cognitive function and physical stunting. Even a short period of undernourishment can have lasting effects on a child’s development, which is why it is vital to address the worldwide hunger crisis now.
Hunger impacts not only a person’s physical well-being but also their mental health. Constant worry about where the next meal will come from can cause severe anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, hunger can interfere with a child’s ability to learn — brain fog, irritability or hyperactivity can make it difficult to concentrate on studies.
Gender inequality also contributes to hunger. When families have to choose which family members should receive the most food, women and girls are often placed at the bottom of the list. Mothers are expected to be the first ones to sacrifice their food so that their children can eat. The gender gap for food insecurity has also increased — women were 10 percent more likely to experience moderate-to-severe food insecurity in 2020, compared with 6 percent in 2019.
Let’s look at just a few countries where Cross Catholic Outreach has helped fill communities’ bellies with rich, nutritious food.
Although the Dominican Republic experiences better economic development than many of its Caribbean neighbors, the wealth disparity gap is still prevalent. In rural sugarcane communities, known as bateyes, workers are predominantly Haitian immigrants and their children. They work more than 12 hours cutting sugarcane for just a few dollars a day. This measly income isn’t enough to feed the workers and their families. Within the Dominican Republic, CCO has sent over 3,863,520 meals to ministry partners Fundación Ciento por Uno, Fundación Nueva Alegria, Fundación Hospital El Buen Samaritano and the Catholic Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, all of which have distributed the nutrient-rich Vitafood meals to families in need.
Although Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, the situation between the two neighbors is alarmingly disparate. Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world; 40 percent of Haitians (4.4 million) don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This is especially true for Haiti’s children (22 percent are chronically malnourished) and Haiti’s elderly, who are increasingly left to fend for themselves and are undernourished. CCO has sent 4,110,236 Vitafood meals to Haiti, where our ministry partners Archeveche de Port-au-Prince, Haitian Resource Development Foundation and St. Joseph Elderly Care Food have distributed the food to Haitians who need it most.
Nearly 23 percent of Honduran children have stunted growth, although some areas see nearly 40 percent. Honduras suffers from frequent hurricanes that wipe out the nation’s crops and destroy infrastructure. Without crops to feed themselves and with broken infrastructure making it difficult to get food from elsewhere, many of Honduras’ poorest families are chronically malnourished. CCO has partnered with The Pearl Association to provide 827,640 meals to poor families facing life-threatening malnutrition.
Ravaged by civil war, the AIDS epidemic and famine, Mozambique is unable to care for the nearly 2 million children orphaned or living on the street. Overwhelmed families try to take in children of extended family members, but there are simply too many mouths to feed and not enough food to go around. Still more children are unable to find a place to take them in and have to fend for themselves. CCO is working with Association Cross Mozambique to provide dry food items to 240 families monthly and 220 quarterly to help them fight chronic malnutrition.
In Zambia, many children get their nutrition from school meals. Unfortunately, children with disabilities in Zambia are often unable to go to school, as public schools there don’t have the accommodations (such as wheelchair ramps) needed for students to attend. Stuck at home, children with disabilities in Zambia usually are seen as a burden on limited family resources, and are chronically malnourished because of this. To help children with disabilities attend school and achieve their goals, CCO provides three nutritious meals a day for the students at the Dagama School for the Physically Disabled. Armed with full bellies, these students are able to focus in class and learn.
As Catholics, we are called to feed the poor around the world. Find a program you love by clicking here, and donate to spread God’s love around the globe.
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.