As food and fuel costs continue to climb, desperate families are resorting to extreme measures to cope. World Vision profiles five places where the crisis is particularly severe.
Fatima, 11, is engaged to a wealthy older man who gave her parents $6,000 in exchange. They had no other way to afford food.
Photo ©2008 Mary Kate MacIsaac/World Vision
Whether eliciting stunned eyebrow raises or horrified sobs, grocery bills and gas prices are taking their toll. People from Seattle to Miami and Afghanistan to Zambia are frantically trying to find ways to cope. Those already struggling to survive are falling deeper into poverty, and the previously self-sufficient are now begging for help.
Children are often the hardest hit, and impoverished communities are the first to suffer, as these stories illustrate.
Afghanistan: Girls sold for food
In Afghanistan, where more than half of all children under age 5 are chronically malnourished, some parents are forced to take extreme measures — selling their pre-teen daughters as wives for older, affluent men.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat..."
—Matthew 25:35 (NIV)
"We didn't want to sell her," says the mother of 11-year-old Fatima. "We wanted to wait until she was 20. But we were forced to. There was no other way."
Fatima is now engaged to a man who gave her parents $6,000. "We have no money," her mother continues. "These days, the high price of food is affecting us in a bad way … we are borrowing money just to buy food."
Georgia: Abandoned to orphanages
In the nearby nation of Georgia, parents are abandoning their children to orphanages, institutions where some food is guaranteed. "I made the hardest decision of my life," says Marina, a mother of six. "Taking my children to the orphanage was the only solution for us; otherwise, they would die of hunger." Her children are now back at home but fearful that a return to the orphanage is looming.
Chile: Living by bread alone
Berta, left, a 41-year-old mother in Chile, spends a quarter of her income just on bread.
Photo ©2008 Renato Hernandez/World Vision
In Chile, the price of bread has tripled since January. As a single mother, Berta spends a quarter of her income on bread alone. She cooks every other day to save on fuel and no longer buys chicken, only bones. "The children get hungry," she says. "Everything is so expensive, and I must give them something to eat."
Senegal: No food until October
In Senegal, after tear gas and riot gear dispersed protests against high food prices, people like Marie Diouf, mother of six, are left waiting. Last year's food production was poor, and the next harvest isn't until October. "There is a long way before the next harvest," says Marie. "This situation sinks us into deep poverty and misery."
Mongolia: Education suffers from hunger
On good days, Garangsuren, an 8-year-old girl in Mongolia, eats one cup of broth with flour for dinner. Other days, she only drinks tea or eats a fried piece of flour. She often goes hungry. As food prices increase, it's becoming harder for Garangsuren to stay in school. Her growling stomach makes concentration difficult, and though education is free, her family cannot afford school supplies.
World Vision: An urgent and long-term response
Watch a video featuring an interview with World Vision's Andrea Dearborn, who traveled to the impoverished nation of Haiti, where the food crisis is a source of misery for millions.
Today, for families whose cooking pots and stomachs are empty, World Vision is saving lives by providing essential provisions of food. With the future in mind, we are also helping farmers grow healthy, nutritious crops, and enabling entrepreneurs to establish and grow businesses.
Immediate food aid and long-term assistance are key tools to fight hunger and the food insecurity that causes chronic or emergency shortages of nutrition around the world.
But higher food prices mean World Vision can't help as many people this year. World Vision is asking the U.S. government to increase its response to the global food crisis to ensure that we are doing all we can to address the needs of the most hungry.
"Here in the U.S., we may feel the pinch on our budgets, too — but we can still put food on our tables. But the poorest families in the world live on $1 a day," says Robert Zachritz, World Vision's director of advocacy and government relations. "They have no safety net. When food prices rise by 50 percent, it is devastating.
"Congress is considering adding $850 million in funding for food in 2008, but it's still pending. In order to save lives, Congress needs to act quickly."
>> Read an article
about a mother in Haiti whose severely malnourished son was saved through interventions from World Vision.
Read more about the global food crisis
and how World Vision is responding to it.
Four ways you can help
>> Pray for children and families around the world suffering from hunger and malnutrition, especially parents who are resorting to extreme measures to cope with the crisis. Pray also that aid agencies like World Vision would be equipped with the resources necessary to respond effectively to this global emergency.
>> Contact your members of Congress to support increased funding for food aid to respond to the global food crisis.
>> Donate now to help provide food and care to children suffering from the current food crisis. Your gift will multiple six times in impact to bring life-saving support to those who need it most.
>> Give monthly to help provide food and agricultural assistance to children suffering from hunger. For just $20 per month, you can help save lives.