Single mother Abiyot wiped tears from her eyes. In the dim moonlight, she could just make out the forms of her six children. Even when surrounded by all these children, she ached for the three who were missing — the three she had to give away because she was unable to provide for them.
The pandemic decimated this single mother's financial situation. “My heart was broken when the school closed, and my part-time employers told me they don’t need my help anymore because of the virus. Every door was shut on my face,” said Abiyot.
The mother, who worked as a school cook, suddenly found herself at home with no income to care for her six children. It was not just her work that came to an abrupt stop but also the breakfast and lunches her children used to depend upon through the government’s school feeding program.
“Even while I was working and my children were getting meals at school, I still struggled to feed them during weekends. I used to take leftover food from school for the weekend. My husband abandoned us and remarried. I know how to take care of my children by myself if only I could work,” she said.
Unfortunately, Abiyot’s story is not unique. Many families faced hunger and food shortages during the pandemic, and now, with the global food crisis, things are even worse.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 135 million people were food insecure, meaning they did not have consistent access to food. According to the United Nations, that number has doubled in two years to 276 million.
The war between Russia and Ukraine has only worsened the crisis that the pandemic began. These two countries are responsible for supplying almost 30% of the world’s wheat and a large amount of global fertilizer. As the conflict continues, low-income households will increasingly deal with the effects of rising inflation and impacts of food insecurity, including malnutrition.