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5 facts about global hunger in a time of pandemic

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October 2, 2020

In a little over a week, many churches will observe Global Hunger Sunday (Oct. 11) and join with others across the globe to recognize World Food Day (Oct. 16), a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding, and informed, year‐around action to alleviate hunger.

Here are 5 things you should know about global hunger and how to respond:

1. Global hunger refers to the want or scarcity of food in a country, aggregated to the world level. The related technical terms (e.g., those used in medicine) are malnutrition or undernutrition, both of which indicate a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health. Malnutrition affects nearly every country, and only two countries have levels of under-five stunting, anemia in women of reproductive age, and adult overweight all below public health thresholds. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year.

2. The COVID-19 pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering acute hunger, says the United Nations World Food Programme. The WFP notes that the economic effect of the pandemic could lead to more than a quarter of a billion people living in acute hunger by the end of 2020. “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread,” says Arif Husain, the chief economist for the WFP. “It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.” By April, a total of 81% of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people had their workplace fully or partly closed. Around the world, an estimated equivalent of 195 million full-time workers lost their jobs. 

3. Prior to the pandemic, the majority of people suffering acute food insecurity were in countries affected by conflict (77 million), climate change (34 million), and economic crises (24 million people). In 2019, 10 countries constituted the worst food crises:  Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, the Sudan, Nigeria, and Haiti. These 10 countries accounted for 66% of the total population—about 88 million—suffering from the hunger crisis.

4. The pandemic has also caused an increase in the United States. From 2019 to August 2020, the number of U.S. households that sometimes or often had “not enough to eat” almost tripled, according to an analysis of data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture. According to the Agriculture Department, the proportion of children in the U.S. who sometimes do not have enough to eat is now as much as 14 times higher than it was last year. Levels of food insecurity in Black and Latino households are significantly higher, at 19% and 17%, respectively, compared to 7% in white households.

5. Churches across the country will designate Oct. 11, 2020, as Global Hunger Sunday to bring attention to the global hunger crisis. SBC churches can help by supporting Global Hunger Relief (GHR), a cooperative initiative supported by ERLC and six other SBC partners. Donations to GHR go 100% toward meeting hunger needs in North America and around the world. One-fifth (20%) of giving to GHR is allotted to North

American hunger relief, with the remaining 80% is spent internationally. In North America, over 14 million meals were provided, while internationally, over 600,000 people were helped by projects supported through Global Hunger Relief in 2017. Additionally, 

Missions-focused GHR projects are integrated into the strategies prioritized by the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. All GHR projects have an intentional spiritual strategy, work with Southern Baptist personnel, solicit local input and expertise, and have accountability measures built in.

A gift of $25 can provide up to 100 meals to feed the hungry. You can make a donation and access resources for your church at globalhungerrelief.com.