Global Food Crisis Fund

What Is Hunger?

Hunger is the uncomfortable feeling a person gets when he or she hasn’t eaten enough food. It’s a feeling familiar to everyone around the world, but in the context of global poverty, hunger for millions of people is a near-constant state, synonymous with chronic undernourishment.1

A person is undernourished when his or her regular food consumption is insufficient to provide the necessary energy to live a normal, active and healthy life. — Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)1

Hunger and undernourishment are closely connected to food insecurity and the inability to eat a healthy diet (i.e., an appropriately balanced and diverse selection of nutritious foods eaten consistently over time to protect against malnutrition).

Hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition are health-risk factors caused and made worse by poverty.

The Relationship Between Extreme Poverty and Hunger

People are said to live in extreme poverty when they cannot meet their basic needs, including their needs for shelter, healthcare and food. The most common measure of this is the international poverty line, the minimum income level below which a person or family struggles to survive.

The monetary value used by the World Bank to establish the international poverty line and the economic definition of poverty is living on less than $2.15 a day.

Families living below the international poverty line are often unable to feed themselves because of limited access to food. But even when food is available and accessible, it’s not always the kind of healthy food required for a balanced diet.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, as many as 828 million people are facing hunger in the world. That’s 2.5 times the population of the United States.

Many of the 828 million people caught up in the world hunger battle live in the context of poverty in Asia and poverty in Africa, where inequality and environmental conditions contribute to widespread need.

  • 424.5 million — more than half of the world’s hungry people — live in Asia

  • 278 million live in Africa — 20% of the continent’s population.

  • 56.5 million live in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is no coincidence that these regions of the world are also the regions with the world’s highest levels of extreme poverty.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Extreme Poverty

Before 2020 and the onset of COVID-19, the world had experienced three decades of progress in poverty reduction. More than 1 billion people had escaped extreme poverty, and the economies of the low-income countries gained ground.

The economic upheavals of COVID-19 erased — and even reversed — that progress. According to the World Bank’s report Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022, the following has resulted from the pandemic:

  • In 2020 alone, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose by over 70 million.

  • The income losses of the poorest 40% of the world’s population were twice as high as those of the richest 20%.

  • Global median income declined by 4% in 2020.

  • Given current trends, rather than achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, 574 million people — nearly 7% of the world’s population — will be living in extreme poverty, with most in sub-Saharan Africa.
The prevalence and persistence of poverty darken the outlook for billions of people living around the world. — World Bank

Other Factors Impacting Global Hunger

In addition to an increase in extreme poverty, other root causes of hunger include a series of recent calamities that have come together to wreak havoc around the world.

In its 2022 Global Report on Food Crises, the Global Network Against Food Crises, spearheaded by the World Food Programme (WFP), reveals the following primary drivers of the current global food crisis:

  • Conflict/Insecurity: Between 2018 and 2021, the number of people facing severe food insecurity in countries experiencing conflict/insecurity increased by a staggering 88%.

    Countries experiencing conflict/insecurity include several in which Compassion partners with local churches to assist children and families in extreme need, such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka and Haiti.

  • Economic Shocks: Hand-in-hand with the adverse effects of the pandemic on income and the global supply chain, soaring prices have made it even more difficult for families in extreme poverty to afford the food they need.

    The war in Ukraine, with the resulting in shortages of major wheat, cooking oil and fertilizer supplies, has also sent economic shock waves around the world.

  • Weather Extremes: Increasing weather-related natural disasters, from devastating hurricanes in Latin America and the Caribbean to ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, are destroying agricultural production, especially for impoverished families whose livelihoods rely on small-scale, agriculture-based efforts.

The number of people facing severe food insecurity by primary cause (2021)

139.1 million


30.2 million

Economic Shocks

23.5 million

Weather Extremes

How Much Would It Cost to End World Hunger?

Despite the recent rise in world hunger, the World Food Programme estimates that to reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 would cost $40 billion per year.

That seems like an impossibly large amount money, but consider these facts:

  • In 2021, Americans spent nearly $11 billion on Cyber Monday.

  • In 2020, in the United States alone, the increase in billionaires’ net worth was over $1 trillion.

  • According to the USDA, food waste in the United States averages 30% to 40% of the food supply per year — more than $161 billion.
We have the resources to end hunger. No child should be allowed to starve. — David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme

How Does Hunger Affect a Child’s Development?

Hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition harm young children’s early development on multiple levels. The damage can begin in the womb and extend throughout life.

Chronic undernutrition …

  • Stunts physical growth and hinders social and emotional development.

  • Shortens life expectancy and inflates infant and child mortality rates.

  • Increases the likelihood of contracting preventable diseases or experiencing chronic health conditions.

  • Inhibits learning, increases stress and introduces insecurity and instability into children’s lives.

Around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition. These mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries. — World Health Organization

How Compassion Helps Children in Poverty Facing Hunger

When children experience lack of access to food — or the food available to them is deficient in nutrients — malnourishment and chronic health issues become life-threatening realities.

To fight this, we partner with local churches around the world to implement early intervention health and nutrition initiatives providing individualized care and attention to millions of children in poverty.

Our church partners are trained to identify malnutrition and take immediate action to address it. Often that means a program of emergency feeding or vitamin supplements, as well as working with the child’s caregivers to ensure that meals at home meet nutritional needs.

Additionally, our church partners provide the children with regular nutritious meals and snacks on program activity days and teach the children about the importance of a balanced diet. They also address ways the children can eat healthfully outside of program activity days.

Compassion’s health and nutrition initiatives ease the hunger and food insecurity of millions of babies, children and young adults, while also providing preventive care to support long-term wellness.

How Is Compassion Fighting the Current Crisis of Global Hunger?

Based on current global food crisis and hunger forecasts, Compassion anticipates an exceptionally critical, widespread need among the children and families in our care for both short-term and long-term interventions.

Short-Term Hunger Interventions

In the short term, Compassion is providing food packages and/or cash transfers to families with low household food security.

Relief supplies are distributed through partnerships with local churches, which means aid is delivered by neighbors to neighbors. When help arrives, it is a familiar face at the door.

Our local partners use mobile money transfers to send cash directly to families. It’s a secure, discrete and cost-effective way to get food assistance to those who greatly need it.

Long-Term Hunger Interventions

Compassion also is supporting long-term sustainability of food access by equipping families in rural areas with seeds, fertilizer, livestock and training on how to build and maintain home gardens, as well as how to increase harvest through small family farming efforts.

Caregivers and youth in urban areas are being provided income-generation training and opportunities to earn a sustainable living, helping eliminate lack of economic access and other financial causes of food insecurity.

Your Opportunity to Make a Difference

We invite you to join other caring Compassion supporters to help address life-threatening hunger needs cause by the global food crisis and to provide:

  • Food kits that include essentials like rice, eggs, meat, milk, corn and other nonperishable dry goods.

  • Medical therapeutic feeding for babies, children, youth, caregivers and siblings.

  • Nutrition assistance for pregnant mothers and infants.

  • Preventive and income-generating activities that help address food insecurity long term.

Our actions are our future! Please donate today to help families affected by the global food crisis.

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Please call us at 800-336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT, to speak with a Compassion representative.


1 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2020. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. Rome, FAO.