Yes, without food, you will be hungry. You will not have the nutrients your body needs, nor will you have a healthy immune system. A lack of food can lead to malnutrition and, for the approximately 811 million people who faced hunger in 2020, access to food was a large factor.
Health and nutrition are vital and necessary responses to mitigate malnutrition, helping children and families recover and gain back their strength. But it can’t end there. And we won’t end there. Breaking the cycle of malnutrition requires a comprehensive approach, because factors leading to hunger and malnutrition are about more than food and nutrition.
Read about factors that affect hunger rates around the world.
You’ve heard it before — water is life. You likely use it every day without a passing thought. A shower, cup of tea or coffee, brushing your teeth, cleaning dishes, taking a drink. Each requires water.
But in many communities, water isn’t available. And even when it is, clean water is harder to come by.
In 2020, one in four people globally did not have access to clean water within their homes, the burden of which literally and metaphorically falls on women and children. Collecting water for household needs accounts for substantial time through the day — women and children walk 6 kilometers (or 3.7 miles) on average to reach water. Unclean water at that.
So why does this matter?
The lives of 800 or more children are claimed every day by diarrhea — the world’s second leading cause of death for children under 5. This illness is largely caused by a combination of factors including unclean water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene.
Without clean water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene behaviors, children are at a substantially higher risk of contracting waterborne diseases — cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A or E, and others. As a result, your immune system is weakened, making you more susceptible to other diseases. When paired with unstable sources of nutrients, or lack thereof, malnutrition risks increase. Malnutrition further weakens your body’s ability to fight illnesses, which pushes the cycle back to the beginning. It impairs immunity from infectious diseases and makes you more vulnerable to diarrhea from unsafe water and sanitation.
High levels of illnesses and diseases drain household income as families funnel funds toward medical needs. Even in areas where World Vision provides free healthcare, families may face additional costs to bring their children to a health facility — whether through transportation fees or time spent away from their livelihoods.
World Vision is reaching one new person with clean water every 10 seconds and reaches three more schools every day with clean water. We know that addressing a community’s water, sanitation, and hygiene needs promotes health for all.
Conflict and extreme weather
The cause of deteriorated nutrition levels varies from region to region. However, conflict is a driving factor in 8 of 10 food crises around the globe. The World Food Programme (WFP) reports almost “60% of the world’s most hungry live in conflict areas.” The link between conflict and hunger was further emphasized by the United Nations Security Council, which works to ensure international peace and security. In 2018, Resolution 2417 was introduced. It condemns the use of starvation as warfare tactic. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize, stresses that “providing assistance to increase food security not only prevents hunger but can also help to improve prospects for stability and peace.” New conflict pushes new waves of people into hunger, just as a lack of food security can drive conflict.
When conflict takes you away from home, memories are the one thing you can be sure to bring. Crops, livestock, belongings, even loved ones surviving are not guarantees. Some people are displaced for years, others for a few weeks, though short-term displacement still has the potential to bring long-lasting impacts. Destroyed crops or disruptions to planting and harvesting seasons shatter livelihoods. If not stolen in their owners’ absence, unattended livestock may not survive due to their lack of food, water, or exposure to extreme heat. All contribute to a child’s degraded nutritional intake.
Similarly, natural disasters and differentiating climate patterns have implications on food and nutrition consumption. Of course, major onset disasters cripple communities and cause largescale destruction. Recurrent and unseasonal droughts and floods also leads to disrupted livelihoods and displacement. Failed crop seasons undermine people’s ability to sell their food in markets, let alone feed themselves. Flooding often means water supplies are contaminated. Hunger and disease levels rise with low capacity to adapt.
Rebuilding takes time. Recovering takes time. As WFP’s largest non-governmental implementing partner worldwide, we’re constantly working to play an active part in these efforts. We partner with communities to address immediate food needs and look onward to build resilience and lasting solutions.
As we work to help build families’ economic growth, we know the best approach is to listen to and empower the communities we serve. We do this by equipping the world’s most vulnerable with the tools they need to provide and care for their families and communities. We also equip communities through savings groups and access to microfinancing to start or build small businesses. All of which help break the cycle of poverty and provide food for families.
According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 83 to 132 million more people faced hunger in 2020 than the previous year due partly to COVID-19. The pandemic’s ripple effects caused a global economic downturn, impacting us all. Global food prices began to rise as consumer demand increased, triggering harsh global recessions and jeopardizing food access. However, communities who were already disadvantaged feel this impact all the more. Those who were hungry have become hungrier. Those below the poverty line have been pushed further down.
Only 20% of food supply chains across South Asia and Africa operate the same as within the United States, bringing commercially farmed crops through complex channels to reach supermarkets. The remainder is brought to households through small-scale farmers, many of whom were disproportionately affected by global lockdown measures. The disruption in supply chains created an uptick in prices as food was restricted from local markets.
Reserves of food and income are not in reach for those who rely on a daily wage to survive. Thus, home isolation and lockdown measures were a commodity that not all could afford. Those who did not contract the virus were still impacted by loss of wages, increasing food costs, and diminished ability to afford a healthy diet. Tens of millions of people have been pushed into hunger as result.
Tackling hunger takes us all
Global prices of food hit an all-time high in March 2022, with overall prices climbing to the highest levels in over a decade. Ukraine, a nation that can feed 400 million people, is now unable to export or import necessary goods and supplies. The war in Ukraine is deepening food insecurity across many regions of the world that depend on wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer, fuel, and gas supplies from the Russia-Ukrainian region.
Responding to a global hunger crisis takes more than food, health, and nutrition. It can feel overwhelming, as if there’s no end in sight. No one solution to cure it all. No one person can bring an end to global hunger, but together, we have the power to do so.
World Vision works around the globe in hunger hotspots, providing emergency relief and transformational development through clean water and sanitation, healthcare and nutrition, and economic empowerment. We work quickly, providing immediate support, and we stay to help children, families, and communities rebuild for the future.
Now is the time to act, with 48 million people already facing emergency levels of hunger.
Join us — in prayer, through giving, and showing God’s love to those in need.