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A mother's anguish reflects desperation of hungry children and families

Riots against spiraling food costs in several world capitals call attention to a severe hunger problem affecting more than 800 million of the world's poorest people. The situation is deteriorating, but the problem can be solved.

May 2008

Jonise Simeuse feeds her 1-year-old son, Peterson, spoonfuls of enriched porridge at a World Vision mothers club.
Jonise Siméuse feeds her 1-year-old son, Peterson, spoonfuls of enriched porridge at a World Vision mothers club.
Photo ©2007 Andrea Dearborn/World Vision
"He just started crying," recalls Jonise Siméuse, describing the death of her son, 9-month-old Claudeson. "He passed away in my arms … my heart broke when he died."

Grief-stricken, the young Haitian mom immediately feared the worst for Claudeson's twin brother, Peterson. "I thought that I could lose him, too." Picking up a thin twig from the dirt, she says: "Peterson was worse than this little stick."

Deepening crisis

Jonise's distress mirrors the desperation of her fellow Haitians, including thousands who swelled the streets of the Caribbean island nation's capital city last month to protest skyrocketing food prices.

Haiti has long suffered hunger's ravages. Now, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is teetering on the breaking point.

"Many Haitians are still recovering from last year's floods. Coupled with their low level of income, they cannot afford the high cost of even basic supplies and commodities," says Wesley Charles, World Vision's national director in Haiti.

Haitians are not alone in their misery.

For years, mothers like Jonise have had their hearts broken as they've watched their children die in their arms. Around the world, 14,000 children younger than 5 die every day from hunger.

Now, in response to escalating food costs, riots have erupted in various developing countries, exposing a dire worldwide problem.

Factors contributing to the current crisis include:

  • Rising fuel prices
  • Crops used for biofuels
  • Rising demand for animal feed
  • Political turmoil and conflict
  • Severe global weather patterns
  • Poor environmental practices
Of the estimated 854 million undernourished people worldwide, more than 95 percent live in developing countries, including Haiti, where most residents are among the 2 billion people across the globe scraping by on less than $2 a day. Recent spiraling food prices have pushed another 100 million people deeper into poverty, reported a recent BBC article.

Solutions that last

"This is a challenge that requires both short- and long-term approaches to resolve," says Robert Zachritz, World Vision's U.S. director of advocacy and government relations. "In addition to providing food for urgent hunger needs, it is essential to invest in long-term agricultural development, improve access to credit and to markets for struggling farmers, and to enact fair trade policies."

"He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry."

—Psalm 146:7 (NIV)

World Vision's development programs in our sponsorship projects come alongside families and communities to establish stable food sources. In communities throughout East Africa, for example, we have successfully implemented long-term agricultural practices to help prevent hunger in this drought-prone region.

In addition, our food aid programs in more than 30 countries prevent millions from going hungry and suffering the affects of malnutrition. This enables children and their families to continue to fight poverty and build long-term food security — defined by the World Bank as "access by all people at all times to sufficient food for an active and healthy life."

Saving Peterson

Eduléne Pierre, a World Vision health worker, leads a mothers club for mothers of malnourished children, offering practical advise about how to properly feed the children to restore their health.
Eduléne Pierre, a World Vision health worker, leads a mothers club for mothers of malnourished children, offering practical advise about how to properly feed the children to restore their health.
Photo ©2007 Andrea Dearborn/World Vision

Little Peterson could tragically have become one of hunger's ugly statistics. But Jonise sought help for her ailing son at a World Vision health post.

A nurse evaluated him and informed the 20-year-old mom that her baby was severely malnourished. Medical workers at the center were determined to save Peterson's life, however.

Eduléne Pierre, a World Vision health worker, followed up with Jonise at her home. She helped her enroll in a mothers club, where moms with malnourished children under 2 years of age could learn about proper nutrition.

Jonise describes what happened next: "The ladies in the center came to my house … and showed me varieties of food that I could feed Peterson, and how to cook it. I gave him a lot of green leaves and manioc [a starchy root crop similar to cassava]."

After four months, the boy's condition had improved dramatically. "I was very happy because … I went and took his weight, and he was recuperated!"

Jonise also continues to receive monthly food aid distributions. Sitting in her lap, baby Peterson eagerly eats spoonfuls of porridge. Now a plump 1-year-old, he is proof that his mom follows her lessons, with World Vision there to encourage and support her.

More help needed

To ensure that tens of thousands of little ones like Peterson can continue to thrive, additional funds are needed.

World Vision's work includes providing nearly 450,000 metric tons of food in some 30 countries, including Haiti. But the soaring cost of food and other factors means a potential decrease in the number of children and families we'll be able to supply with food aid this year.

"We're distributing food to as many people as we can, but there is never enough," concludes Charles. "The next few months are critical for Haiti."

Learn more

>> Check out more information about the global food crisis at World Vision's advocacy site.
>> See World Vision's Asia-Pacific regional Web site to learn more about how the food crisis is hurting children there.
>> Read why eradicating hunger is a primary Millennium Development Goal.

Four ways you can help

>> Help provide food for Haiti. Your gift will multiply five times in impact to provide life-saving assistance to hungry children and families.
>> Give monthly to help provide food and agricultural assistance to children suffering from hunger. For just $20 per month, you can help save lives.
>> Sponsor a child. World Vision sponsorship provides additional assistance to children during times of crisis, like the deepening food disaster, and helps families to grow or buy more food through ongoing development efforts.
>> Take action! Advocate for increased food aid funding to help alleviate the suffering of children and families affected by the food crisis.

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