Health and Nutrition 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 is 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.1

Hunger and undernourishment are closely connected to food insecurity and the ability to eat a healthy diet (i.e., an appropriately balanced and diverse selection of 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 for shelter, health and food. The most common measure of this is the 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 $1.90 a day.

Families living below the international poverty line are often unable to feed themselves because of food security issues. When food is available and accessible, it’s not always the food necessary for a healthy diet, and the cost of a healthy diet is almost three times the average food expenditure in low-income countries.1

The World Food Programme estimates that more than 3 billion people in the world could not afford a healthy diet in 2017.1

Most of the 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.

  • More than half of the world’s hungry people live in Asia.1
  • One-fifth of the African population is hungry.2
  • 1.9 billion people in Asia and 965 million people in Africa cannot afford a healthy diet.1

Of all the regions in the world, the affordability of a healthy diet poses the greatest challenge within the context of hunger in Africa.1

Road Map to a Hunger-Free Future

The world does not suffer from a lack of food. It’s afflicted with issues of:

  • Availability and access governing food production.
  • Food loss.
  • Markets and transportation.
  • Food reserves.
  • Food waste.
  • Affordability.

As a result of these issues, 820 million people in the world go hungry every day,4 and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects the number of undernourished people in the world will exceed 840 million by 2030.1

More than enough food is produced today to feed everyone in the world, but nearly 14% of the food produced is lost in the food supply chain before reaching consumers.4

The FAO also estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic added between 83 million and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world in 2020 alone.1

Without the establishment of sustainable agricultural production and food systems around the world, hunger and malnutrition will continue to be a chronic problem, as well as a severely acute problem in times of crisis, disaster, epidemics and pandemics.

Efforts to reduce poverty and income equality, while enhancing income-generating activities, are key to lifting people out of poverty and making food and a healthy diet available and affordable for everyone. To reach Zero Hunger by 2030, the World Food Programme, Project Everyone and UNICEF created a high-level road map for achieving food security, improving nutrition, promoting sustainable agriculture, and promoting global health and well-being for all at all ages. It includes:

  • Improving rural infrastructure and creating more efficient supply chains to provide everyone access to affordable and nutritious food.
  • Helping farmers cultivate a sustainable variety of crops to increase the nutritional value of our global and local diets.
  • Educating consumers about the importance of eating a wide range of nutritious foods.
  • Reducing food waste by getting food to the plates of those who need it, not just those who can afford it.
  • Prioritizing the nutritional needs for nursing mothers and children in the first 1,000 days of life.

How Do Poverty and Hunger Affect a Child’s Development?

Child hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition harm a child’s development in early childhood 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. It shortens life expectancy and inflates infant and child mortality rates. It increases the likelihood of contracting preventable diseases or experiencing chronic health conditions, and it inhibits learning, increases stress and introduces insecurity and instability into children’s lives.

According to the World Health Organization, undernutrition is associated with 45% of child deaths.3

How Compassion Helps Fight World Hunger

When children do not have enough food to eat, 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 frontline 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.

By giving to our Health and Nutrition Fund, or by sponsoring a child, you help safeguard children from illnesses that hamper development and threaten their lives. With your support, we can provide poor children around the world the nutritious food, medical care, and health and hygiene training they need to survive and thrive.

Protect a Child in Poverty From the Abuse of Hunger. Sponsor a Child Now!

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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.

2 FAO, ECA and AUC. 2020. Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2019. Accra.

3 “Fact Sheets - Malnutrition.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 1 Apr. 2020,>.

4 FAO. 2019. The State of Food and Agriculture 2019. Moving forward on food loss and waste reduction. Rome. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.