Ration cuts accelerating hunger crisis, leading to increased child marriage, sexual violence, child trafficking and suicidal thoughts

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  • 68 per cent of people affected by ration cuts said someone in their family had gone to bed hungry in the past four weeks because there was not enough food. 

  • 41 per cent of refugees thought both girls and boys are now subject to more violence, neglect or abuse at home.  

  • More than one in 10 (13 per cent) adults reported feeling so hopeless that they no longer want to carry on living all the time. Half (50 per cent) of adults said they felt that way most or some of the time.  

Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh are some of the most affected by the ration cuts happening in refugee settlements across the world.
(June 11, 2024)

A new report from international aid agency World Vision shows that more funding for lifesaving food assistance is urgently needed as ration cuts are leading to a drastic reduction in meals and an increase in child marriage, child labour, and mental health risks. 

The report, “Ration Cuts: Taking from the Hungry to Feed the Starving,” published ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, shows the cost of ration cuts aid agencies are having to make due to funding shortfalls. Refugees and other vulnerable families are receiving just a fraction of their monthly required calories or being cut from aid distributions altogether. 

While children on average consumed two meals per day before the cuts, when asked in January 2024, most families had eaten just one or no meals the day before. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) said someone in their family had gone to bed hungry in the past four weeks because there was not enough food, and almost half (46 per cent) said someone had gone a whole day and night without eating. 

“These findings should instantly ring an alarm bell,” said Mary Njeri, Director of World Vision’s Global Hunger Response. “Climate change, conflict and COVID-19 have left more than 38 million people one step from starvation, and humanitarian aid is struggling to keep up. Children are telling us about parents sending them to work or get married, and in some cases, considering suicide as a result of the cuts.” 

The survey found alarming increases in the risk of child marriage, sexual violence, child labour, and child trafficking, with 41 per cent of refugees thinking both girls and boys are now subject to more violence, neglect or abuse at home. Almost a third (30 per cent) of parents thought that the ration cuts were pushing girls into child marriage, rising to 97 per cent of parents in Afghanistan. In the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, 75 per cent of families reported underage girls were getting pregnant, leading them to drop out of school. 

“We must urgently increase the essential lifesaving aid that children and their families so desperately need to survive. Long-term support is also essential so children can go back to school and families can once again farm, find jobs and support themselves.” Njeri added. "We already knew that one in five people affected by conflict were at risk of experiencing some form of mental health disorder,2 and during COVID-19 we saw the additional impact food security could have on parents’ mental health.3 We need not just increased food assistance, but better education, mental health, and protection support for the most vulnerable families to prevent a mental health epidemic. Hunger isn’t just killing people through malnutrition, but also through mental illness.” 

The research is sobering: More than one in 10 adults (13 per cent) say they feel so hopeless that they no longer want to carry on living. Half (50 per cent) of adults said they feel this way most or some of the time. In Afghanistan, responses from parents indicate that almost all adults (97 per cent) are at risk of mental health disorders - more than four times than in other conflict-affected populations. Levels were also four times higher in Lebanon (89 per cent); and more than three times in Bidi Bidi (79 per cent). 

“We know that with the right support, children and their families can thrive,” said Njeri. “No one should be going hungry in the 21st century. World leaders must urgently accelerate efforts to resolve conflicts and tackle climate change, and to provide the children and families affected with the humanitarian support they need. It is essential that we come together and say ENOUGH.” 

In 2023, World Vision provided food and cash assistance to over 20 million people in 46 countries, including more than 16 million people in partnership with the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP). 

Access the full report HERE

About the report 

World Vision’s Global Hunger Response spoke to communities in six countries affected by recent shortfalls in emergency food and cash assistance. Included in the research were 562 families and 36 focus group discussions in February 2024 in communities selected based on their exposure to food ration cuts: families in Afghanistan, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, a mix of displaced, host and refugee families in Demba (Kasais) and Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), host communities and Syrian refugees in Lebanon, host and displaced families in Somalia, and refugees in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda.  

It is important to note that the findings of this study do not represent the countries or global context as a whole, but present the experiences of specific families in communities affected by the ration cuts, and share their views on the knock-on effects of these reductions. 

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian and development organisation dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision and its partners are working in communities to improve families’ economic prospects, strength violence prevention and child protection services, and improve education systems.  

World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.  For more information, please visit us online or follow us on X (formerly Twitter).