Hunger Free

We believe we can tackle the effects of the hunger crisis. But it will take all of us working together to boldly transform the lives of children.

After a prolonged decline, world hunger is on the rise again. A new UN report shows in 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015.

Children are particularly vulnerable. Every year, malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of deaths in children under the age of five in developing countries.

Aid works. Achieving a Hunger Free world will require renewed efforts through new ways of working. In the last year, through partnership with Canadians, World Vision rehabilitated more than 180,000 acutely malnourished children under the age of five.

Our approach
Across Africa, millions of children are growing up knowing the desperation of a food crisis or famine. What’s the difference between the two, and why does it matter?

The following FAQ are the basics. Read on to learn how you can help us change the future for children.
Regions of the following countries are facing severe food crisis or the threat of famine:
  • Chad
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
You’ve heard the terms “Africa famine” or the “Africa hunger crisis”, but Africa is a large and diverse continent. There are vast differences among countries, and even among regions of the same country.

Here are two of the main ones:
  1. Some countries facing food crisis are much closer to famine:
    • Famine is the absolute worst-case scenario for a food crisis.
    • It has a technical definition used by the humanitarian community. 
    • A food crisis becomes a famine when it causes large-scale starvation, malnutrition and death.
  2. Conflict is a major complicating factor in some regions, worsening the food crisis.

World Vision is reaching people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan to reach nearly 2.2 million people. We’re providing things like:

  • life-saving food and nutrients
  • clean water and sanitation services
  • medical assistance
  • livelihood skills training
  • child protection

Here are some highlights from our response so far:
  • More than 900,000 people reached with food-related assistance
  • 300,000 people reached with health and nutrition services
  • 544,000 people reached with water, sanitation, and hygiene services
  • 61,000 children reached with protection and education interventions
  • 30,034 people reached with shelter and household items

It depends where you live. Drought is causing food shortages in many African countries right now, while conflict and instability are greatly worsening the situation in a few others. In a nutshell:

  1. Recurring drought has contributed to food shortages across the continent, some of them severe. It’s hard enough to weather one poor harvest, and the months of hunger that can follow. But when several consecutive harvests fail to produce enough food for families’ survival, the situation becomes dire, especially for children. Over the last two decades, the El Niño weather phenomenon has also played a significant role in these droughts.

  2. Conflict and instability. Children may be impacted by community violence stemming from scarcity, as cattle raiding leads to the death of a parent, for instance. Still, their communities can often:
    • work with organizations like World Vision, taking measures to prevent food crises from occurring e.g. improved farming techniques.
    • galvanize when food shortages occur, ensuring that children and other vulnerable people are cared for.
    • receive emergency food and medical care from their government, or through humanitarian agencies. For countries in the grips of civil conflict – Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan for instance – there are often no government support systems to help struggling families. In these places, conflict can play a major role in:
      • destroying communities, forcing families to flee for safety, abandoning their homes and livelihoods.
      • preventing families from preparing for future droughts, as they’re forced into day-to-day survival mode.
      • blocking vital food and humanitarian aid (like medical care) from reaching those in desperate need.

Read how the U.N. has linked conflict to famine in four countries.

World Vision exists to help children in need. That means that we reach out to children –wherever they are. Few families need us more than those battling a food crisis while fleeing conflict in their communities. Because families are often forced to be mobile in times of conflict, community based programming doesn’t work well in unstable countries. We must be nimble, and flexible.

Here are some of the things we’re providing right now, in countries facing both drought and conflict:

  • Emergency food help, to ward off malnutrition.
  • Clean water, sanitation and hygeine programs, to reduce the spread of illness.
  • Livelihood help, like cash for work, so parents who’ve lost everything can provide for their children.

In famine, the unthinkable happens. For many families, it’s about complete desperation. It’s during famine that we find mothers boiling leaves, to quiet their children’s hunger pains.

Famine literally means an extreme scarcity of food. But it’s more than that — it’s the absolute worst-case scenario for a food crisis. A food crisis becomes a famine when there’s so little food in the region that it causes large-scale starvation, malnutrition, and death.

Famine has a technical definition used by the humanitarian community. To declare famine, the following three things must happen at once:

  • At least 20 percent of households in a given area face extreme food shortages with limited ability to cope.
  • More than 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition.
  • Hunger causes more than two deaths each day for every 10,000 people.

When a food crisis no longer meets these technical criteria, a famine is no longer in effect. Together with World Vision and other Canadians, you can play a role in helping reverse the situation.

Here’s an example: In February, South Sudan declared famine in a region in Unity State, with a population of about 100,000. Since then, enough aid has reached the area that the famine declaration is no longer in effect.

At World Vision, we receive regular reports from our colleagues on the ground. Here is the latest as of August, 2017:


Important fact: Since the major famine of 1984, the country’s government has been determined never to fall back into famine. But for the first time since, poor rains are making this pledge hard to keep.

Cause of crisis: Drought, not conflict

What’s happening: With drought depleting safe water sources, people are forced to drink dirty water, leading to diarrhea. With acute, watery diarrhea, loss of fluids and nutrients can lead to death. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable.

How we’re helping:

  • We’ve reached nearly 300,000 people with water, sanitation and hygiene help.
  • We’ve provided livelihood assistance to more than 460,000 people.
  • We’ve reached more than 27,000 people with health and nutrition services.


Important fact: The problem is much worse in the remote, rural parts of the country. Kenyans have been working hard to help struggling families through local businesses, community groups and churches, but more support is still needed.

Cause of crisis: Drought, not conflict

Current challenge: A few regions received some rainfall in May and June, so the vegetation conditions and water availability improved a little there. Yet the impact of drought is particularly severe in several areas.

How we’re helping:
  • We’ve reached more than 227,000 people with livelihood assistance.
  • We’ve provided services like clean water, sanitation and hygeine for more than 32,000 people.


Important fact: Somalia has several points of hope, with a new president and federal government. Opposition groups are making it diffcult for humanitarian aid to reach at-risk populations.

Causes of crisis: Both drought and conflict

Current challenge: The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, and food insecurity is acute in many parts of the country. The cholera outbreak is severe and ongoing.

How we’re helping:
  • We’ve reached more than 240,000 people with services like clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • We’ve provided nearly 140,000 people with livelihood and food assistance.
  • We’ve reached more than 225,000 people with health and nutrition services.

South Sudan

Important fact: South Sudan is the world’s newest country, emerging from decades of civil war. After a short period of peace, a new conflict emerged.

Causes of crisis: Mainly conflict Current challenge: Farmers can’t cultivate their land, as they flee for safety in other communities or countries. Food insecurity is most acute in regions where thousands of people have been displaced. Food prices have soared, meaning people can’t provide for their families. Trade has been disrupted, and livelihoods destroyed.

How we’re helping:
  • We’ve reached more than 228,000 people with livelihood and food help.
  • We’ve provided nearly 130,000 people with services like clean water, sanitation and hygeine.
  • We’ve reached nearly 43,000 people with education and protection services.

Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria

Important fact: These countries are all grouped around Lake Chad, a shrinking body of fresh water on which all four have historically bordered. Because the lake is smaller now, both Niger and Nigeria are no longer touching the shoreline.

Causes of crisis: Drought and also conflict

Current challenge: More than 2.4 million people are displaced, as of August, 2017. Food insecurity and malnutrition have reached critical levels. Delivery of aid has been constrained due to conflict.

How we’re helping:
  • We’ve provided things like clean water, sanitation and hygiene for more than 61,000 people
  • We’ve offered child protection programs for more than 2,000 children needing safe places to play, learn and receiving counselling
  • We’ve reached nearly 5,300 people with things like mosquito nets, water containers and winter kits

Malnutrition can mean many things, even the effect of too much fast food! It happens for people eating too many of certain kinds of nutrients – or not nearly enough. When that diet leads to health problems, the person is ‘malnourished’. When food crises happen, babies and children are often malnourished for long periods of time.

This can lead to several things:

  • Stunting, which is low height for age
  • Wasting, which is low weight for the person’s length or height
When wasting progresses, as we’re seeing with millions of children facing food crisis in Africa, these little ones have depleted immune systems are less and less able to fight off illness. In the worst cases, children can starve to death.

How medical workers respond:

These children don’t just need more food, they need the right kind. They need a nutrient-rich food treatment, commonly referred to as “ready-to-use therapeutic food”. You may have seen pictures of the rectangular packets being offered to children in feeding centres.

Medical workers often measure a child’s mid-upper arm circumference to gauge the level of malnutrition the child is experiencing. That’s why you may see photos of people wrapping a band with green, yellow, and red sections around a malnourished child’s tiny upper arm.
  • Green indicates the child is not malnourished.
  • Yellow indicates that they are malnourished.
  • Red indicates that they are severely malnourished and at risk of death.

Drought, poor harvests, and instability create a cycle that’s extremely difficult to break. And this happens in other regions of the world, too.

When instability persists because of conflict or political problems, here’s what can happen:

  • people can’t plant crops, or have to flee their homes and livelihoods
  • less food gets harvested
  • food prices go up
  • markets close, reducing families’ livelihood prospects
  • emergency relief can’t get through, due to conflict in a region

Droughts have become more frequent and intense in recent years in west, east, and southern Africa. In recent years, the El Niño weather phenomenon has made everything worse. Rainy seasons are shorter, with less overall precipitation.

Sometimes it rains too hard, washing seeds away before they germinate. Less food and water means:
  • vast numbers of dead livestock in affected areas
  • this devastates families’ source of income and food
  • families are forced to drink dirty water, when water sources and dams dry up
  • illness like diarrhea or cholera sets in
  • children are increasingly malnourished, and become sick or stunted
  • people die, especially babies and young children

  • Tragically, food crises can play out over the long term. Children growing up stunted due to chronic malnutrition can lack the physical or mental capacity to learn, and contribute to society. Society loses out on their God-given intelligence, creativity and leadership potential. This can gravely weaken communities and countries alike.

There’s no substitute for life-saving aid in an emergency, when and where people need it. But in the longer-term, World Vision focuses on solutions that build resilience, allowing families and communities to bounce back when crops fail and streams dry up.

With long-term development programs in place, hunger crises can often be avoided. Families can maintain independence. Here’s how World Vision is working today to prevent future food and hunger crises:

  • Farmers and pastoralists benefit from market development, immunizations for livestock, and training and seeds to grow drought-resistant crops.
  • Cash-for-work gives impoverished families the ability to take care of themselves, and stimulates local markets.
  • Saving groups and community banks make loans that help members recover from emergencies.
  • Building and repairing water and sanitation facilities contributes to healthy living, especially when communities are taught to maintain them.
  • New business training, equipment, and materials can help families diversify their incomes, so their assets are not wiped out by drought or adverse weather.
  • Developing resilience is a generational process. Children who stay in school are better prepared for the challenges and opportunities in their future.

Nearly everywhere in the world! Together with your support, we’re bringing about change in more than 50 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabawe and dozens of countries in between. In partnership with World Vision International, our global work reaches children in nearly 100 countries around the globe. See where we work.

In addition to stable countries, where development work is easier, you’ll find us in places where it couldn’t be more difficult. Our love for children takes us to spots where many other organizations don’t work, even when that place is extremely dangerous. If children need help, then we need to be there.

Children’s needs are as complex and varied as the communities and families into which they were born. We respond, through programs that reflect the unique needs of the children we are here to serve. Here are five examples:

1. Sponsorship:
We believe the best way to help an individual child is to lift her whole community. Child sponsorship is a powerful and effective way to do this, and it’s at the very heart of our work.
  • Sponsorship benefits all children in a community, not just those who are sponsored.
  • We educate, equip and empower communities to provide things like clean water, nutritious food, and access to education and healthcare.
  • Canadians partner with us, helping communities provide for their children both now and in the long-term.
2. Emergencies:
We have staff on the ground in nearly 100 countries, and are poised to respond to both natural disasters and civil conflict.
  • We want children to thrive in the long-term, so we often stay in the area for several years, helping communities rebuild and recover.
  • We prepare communities to respond at the first sign of disaster, saving children’s lives in the process.
  • Canadians partner with us, providing immediate assistance and walking with communities in the years to follow.
3. Advocacy:
We teach children their rights, and help communities understand the need to honour them. And we advocate for children in the halls of power.
  • In international forums, where world leaders make major decisions, it's easy to overlook the world's smallest and most vulnerable people.
  • Together, we press for solutions which free children from injustice, whether in their communities, their countries or their world
  • Canadians join us in championing children’s rights, reaching out to our government or making lifestyle changes that benefit children.
4. Fragile States:
We serve children living in the world’s toughest places, where traditional development work is impossible.
  • In parts of Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan or Syria, for instance, life is unpredictable and often very dangerous.
  • We are flexible and responsive in the face of shifting situations, going to the ends of the earth to meet children’s needs.
  • Canadians partner with us, learning about complex situations like the food crisis in Africa, and stepping forward to help.
5. Child Protection:
Children are the world’s most vulnerable people, particularly in situations of poverty or inequality. Since children can’t thrive if they’re not safe, child protection underpins all our programming. Here are just a few examples:
  • Through emergency responses, Canadians help us protect children during dangerous times with things like our child-friendly spaces.
  • Through advocacy work, you help us press the Canadian government for measures to reduce the worst kinds of child labour in Canadian supply chains.
  • Through sponsorship, you help us work with communities to protect girls from early marriage and pregnancy.

Learn more about our work.

World Food Programme Publication: This year’s edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World marks the beginning of a regular monitoring of progress towards achieving the food security and nutrition targets set by the 2030 Agenda.
World Health Organization.

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