Global ration cuts accelerating hunger crisis, leading to increased child marriage, child abuse, child trafficking and suicidal thoughts, indicates new report from World Vision

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  • 68% of respondents affected by ration cuts said someone in their family had gone to bed hungry in the past four weeks
  • 41% of refugees said both girls and boys are now subject to more violence, neglect or abuse at home
  • More than 1 in 10 adults surveyed (13%) reported feeling so hopeless that they no longer want to live “all of the time”; half (50%) said they felt that way “most or some of the time”

GENEVA (June 11, 2024) – More international funding for lifesaving food assistance is urgently needed, a new report from global humanitarian organization World Vision underscores today.

Published ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, the report includes survey responses from refugees and members of other vulnerable communities in six countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Uganda and Somalia) that have been affected by recent shortfalls in emergency food and cash assistance. It shows that these families are receiving just a fraction of their monthly required calories or being cut from aid distributions altogether, leading to a drastic reduction in meals, increases in harmful coping mechanisms, and a precipitous decline in mental health.

Specifically, the report found that while children, on average, consumed two meals per day before the cuts, most families responding in January 2024 said they had eaten just one or no meals the day before. More than two-thirds (68%) of people reported at least one member of their household going to bed hungry, and almost half (46%) said at least one family member had gone a whole day and night without eating in the past four weeks.

“These findings should instantly ring an alarm bell,” said Mary Njeri, director of World Vision’s global hunger response. As a result of sharply rising costs, climate shocks, regional conflict and the lingering impacts of the pandemic in developing countries, she says, “more than 38 million people[1] [are] ­one step from starvation, and humanitarian aid is struggling to keep up. Children are telling us about parents sending them to work or get married.” The report also highlights overwhelming feedback from both adults and children in Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee settlement on increased suicidal thoughts and intentions, as well as increased suicide deaths, as a direct result of ration cuts. Previous research has found an association between food insecurity and increased suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

The report found alarming increases in the risk of child marriage, sexual violence, child labor and child trafficking. Among the refugee community, 41% of respondents believed both girls and boys were experiencing more violence, neglect or abuse at home. Almost a third (30%) of parents overall said that the ration cuts were pushing girls into child marriage, with the percentage skyrocketing to 97% in Afghanistan. In Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee settlement, men, women, boys and girls all spoke about girls being forced into transactional relationships with older men, as they struggled to find enough food to survive.

“We must urgently increase the essential lifesaving aid that children and their families so desperately need to survive. Long-term support is also essential so children can go back to school and families can once again farm, find jobs and support themselves,” Njeri added. “We already knew that 1 in 5 people affected by conflict were at risk of experiencing some form of mental health disorder,[1] and during the COVID-19 pandemic saw the additional impact that food security could have on parents’ mental health.[2] We need not just increased food assistance, but also better education, mental health, and protection support for the most vulnerable families to prevent a mental health epidemic.”

The findings paint a sobering picture, with more than 1 in 10 (13%) adults surveyed saying they feel so hopeless that they no longer want to live “all of the time.” Half (50%) of adults said they felt that way “most or some of the time.” In Afghanistan, parents’ answers indicate that nearly all adults (97%) are at risk of mental health disorders — over four times the prevalence for other conflict-affected populations. This level was also four times higher in Lebanon (89%), and more than three times higher in Uganda (79%).

“Hunger isn’t just killing people through malnutrition, but also through mental illness,” Njeri added. “But we know that with the right support, children and their families can thrive.”

Last year World Vision provided over 20 million people in 46 countries with food and cash assistance, including more than 16 million people reached in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

“No one should be going hungry in the 21st century,” concluded Njeri. “World leaders must urgently accelerate efforts to resolve conflicts and tackle climate change, and to provide the children and families affected with the humanitarian support they need. It is essential that we come together and say ‘enough.’”

Report available to download here:

About the report

For this report, World Vision’s Global Hunger Response team spoke to communities in six countries that have been affected by recent shortfalls in emergency food and cash assistance. Included in the research were 562 families and 36 focus group discussions in February 2024 in communities selected based on their exposure to food ration cuts: families in Afghanistan, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, a mix of displaced and host families in Kasai and Tanganyika (provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), host communities and Syrian refugees in Lebanon, host and displaced families in Somalia, and refugees in Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda.

It is important to note that the findings of this study do not represent the countries or global context as a whole but present the experiences of specific families in communities affected by the ration cuts who shared their views on the domino effects of these reductions.

[1] FSIN and Global Network Against Food Crises. 2024 Global Report on Food Crises.

2 Charlson, F., van Ommeren, M., Flaxman, A., Cornett, J., Whiteford, H., and Saxena, S. (June 11, 2019). “New WHO prevalence estimates of mental disorders in conflict settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Lancet, 394: 240-248. 2019

3 Ejiohuo, O., Onyeaka, H., Unegbu, K. C., Chikezie, O. G., Odeyemi, Omowale A., Lawal, A., and Odeyemi, Olumide A. (2024). Nourishing the Mind: How Food Security Influences Mental Wellbeing. Nutrients, 16(4), 501. 2024.

About World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit or follow on X, formerly known as Twitter, @WorldVisionUSA.