7 Hungry Places

Around the globe, a quarter of children younger than 5 fail to grow because they do not have enough food to eat. And they will never regain the growth they missed.

World Vision is working in many countries where chronic hunger persists, equipping families and communities with the skills and resources to feed their children. Here are seven of those hungry places.

An Afghan family sits inside a dwelling. Afghanistan tops the world with the greatest proportion of children suffering from malnutrition.
©2012 Paul Bettings/World Vision


Afghan children face the worst chances of survival on the planet. Considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, Afghanistan is wracked with political turmoil, war, drought, and extreme winters. The country has the highest proportion of chronically malnourished children, resulting in widespread stunting.

Stunting is more than being short. Children with stunted growth — like six out of 10 in Afghanistan — have little opportunity to thrive. Stunting causes impairment in brain development, which means a child is less likely to learn, and later in life earn a livable income. Their weakened immune systems make them more vulnerable to disease.

In the last decade, World Vision trained hundreds of health professionals in western Afghanistan to care for pregnant women and their children before, during, and after birth. Supplying farmers with tools and drought-resistant seeds — and appropriate training — World Vision helped hundreds more families balance their diets and increase their incomes through greater crop yields.

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Children prepare a dinner of sweet potatoes and cassava in front of their home in Burundi.
©2009 Jon Warren/World Vision


One of the smallest African countries, Burundi’s lush, rolling hills and farmland belie an ugly reality: The majority of people live in extreme poverty and hunger.

Slow to recover from a 12-year civil war that ended in 2006, its children are even slower to reach their potential: Fifty-eight percent of Burundi’s children younger than 5 are stunted. According to a World Vision specialist in Burundi, most families and children eat once a day.

Last year alone, World Vision helped 6,800 mothers understand the importance of breastfeeding their infants. World Vision works with malnourished children to bring them to a healthy weight. Staff also train parents to prepare nutritious meals, as well as cultivate household gardens to increase and diversify their crops.

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There is a simple way to identify malnourished children using a MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) strip, which measures the circumference of an infant’s arm (pictured here). If the strip measures in the red then the child is severely malnourished. 
©2013 Ajitson Samuel Justus/World Vision

Poverty is rampant in the world’s second most populous nation: More than 80 percent of Indians (about 700 million) live on less than $1.25 a day. With one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India remains painfully thin on nutrition for growth. Forty-eight percent of the nation’s children younger than 5 are stunted.

World Vision’s approach to helping India’s chronically malnourished children varies across a vast culturally and geographically diverse landscape. About 61 million children younger than 5 are stunted, UNICEF says. That’s 30 percent of the world’s stunted children — in one country.

In 2013, World Vision provided supplementary feeding programs for more than 46,000 children across India to prevent malnutrition. Other programs help expecting and nursing mothers improve their own health to ensure their babies are well-nourished en-utero and before age 2.

Pray for children and families in South Asia, including India.

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Timor-Leste is the poorest nation in Asia. Nine out of 10 people rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
©2010 Rohan Zerna and Jacqui Hocking/World Vision


On an island just north of Australia, the first nation of the 21st century is rich in oil and gas reserves and verdant jungle. Yet Timor-Leste is the poorest in Asia. Despite its economic potential, the country ranks 134th of 186 countries on the human development index. Families may have enough to eat but with little food variety, children lack necessary nutrients. That’s largely why 58 percent of children younger than 5 don’t grow adequately.

To help farmers improve nutrition and income, World Vision provides seeds to vary crops, root vegetables, and rice. World Vision also trains farmers in new cultivation methods, and works with parents to establish cooking clubs, plant kitchen gardens, and raise poultry. In addition, nursing mothers learn to provide their infants with essential nutrients through exclusive breastfeeding.

These efforts helped reduce malnutrition rates in communities in the Aileu area of Timor-Leste by one-third.

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School girls in Malawi, where widespread drought in 2012 fueled major food shortages and deepened food challenges for rural families.
©2011 Abby Stalsbroten/World Vision


Malawi, known as “the warm heart of Africa,” is hurting. The country faces recurring hunger issues. Widespread drought in 2012 caused major food shortages and further degraded the nation’s already fragile agricultural system.

World Vision helps thousands of Malawi farmers to increase crop yield through irrigation farming, rainwater harvesting, resource management, and the introduction of drought-resistant seeds. Some farmers have learned to raise dairy animals, providing important new sources of nutrition and income.

Many communities now have World Vision-trained volunteers to monitor growth in malnourished children. With efforts to improve maternal and child health and nutrition, World Vision aims to directly help 1.5 million Malawi children through 2015.

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Hunger forced Cossy, 18 months, to eat the bitter tasting, watery wild root. His weight is far from what it should be. His mother Josna shared, “I don’t remember when my family last ate two meals in a day.”
©2013 Collins Kaumba/World Vision


Zambia, Malawi’s neighbor to the west, is a land of natural beauty — lofty plateaus, mountains, and grassy plains. Yet living among this inspiring landscape, Zambia’s children face chronic malnutrition.

About half of Zambia’s people are out of work, and more than 85 percent live below the poverty line. Eating away at livelihoods are armyworm attacks on crops, coupled with dry spells and flooding.

Another barrier: misinformation. In western Zambia, traditional beliefs dictate that boys are not allowed to eat round foods because these will harm their future ability to have children. This superstition eliminates many healthy foods — round fruits like oranges, watermelons, and guavas, as well as eggs and potatoes.

Working with the government and Zambia’s First Lady, Christine Kaseba-Sata, World Vision provides seeds and fruit trees to families and trains them in sustainable farming methods. Many families now use chickens and goats for breeding and food, and World Vision enrolls malnourished children in nutritional recovery programs.

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They now participate in World Vision’s Common Pot program, but this family was once malnourished — and one daughter remains stunted because of it.
©2014 Lindsey Minerva/World Vision


Start with an onion. Add an herb. Share with your children. In this Central American nation, families work together to keep their children nourished through a program they helped pioneer, Corazón en Familia (heart of the family).

More than half of Guatemalans live below the poverty line. As a result, 48 percent of its children younger than 5 are malnourished and stunted.

Through neighborhood Common Pot sessions, struggling families learn from mothers whose families have well-established healthy eating habits. World Vision staff and local volunteer “guide mothers” teach members of more than 450 groups in 139 communities to prepare nutritious meals and recognize health-risk warning signs in their infants.

More than 1,400 children benefited from Common Pot in 2013, and hundreds more avoided severe malnutrition through access to World Vision's emergency feeding programs.

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