Your attention required: a global hunger crisis is growing

It’s been said that attention is the precursor to adoration. And when it comes to engaging with brain-busting global crises, attention can also be the antidote to apathy. When we show up with a ready mind and soft heart, seeking to understand the complexities as best we can, it honours those who suffer and leads us to meaningful action.

Jesus gives us a compelling example of this attention-action link. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” goes the teaching (see Matthew 25:34-40). The puzzled listeners respond, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty…?” Despite not seeing the full picture, it was those who paid attention – seeing the one who was overlooked – who took action in step with God’s heart, ministering to the one who was hungry, and ultimately to the Lord.

Right now, we have the urgent invitation to turn our attention and action to 50 million people on the brink of famine. 

A growing number of people – 345 million, up from 135 million in 2019 – face acute food insecurity. When we talk about hunger like this, we’re talking systemic, devastating hunger: parents forced to cope by eating less; kids missing out on school because they’re too hungry to attend; child labour and forced marriage emerging as growing problems.

Abraham Alembo, a staff member with Tearfund’s Christian partner in Ethiopia, shares: “In the past year, it is getting worse… The most vulnerable groups like children under five, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are in a serious condition. Many of them have been malnourished.”

Multiple factors have converged to create a ‘perfect storm’ for this unprecedented global hunger crisis:

  • Conflict is the most powerful driver of the food crisis globally. From Yemen to South Sudan, Mozambique and Afghanistan, protracted fighting has destroyed livelihoods and forced families to flee their homes.
  • COVID doubled the number of people living with life-threatening hunger.
  • Climate shocks have shattered livelihoods for communities who rely on farming. The Horn of Africa has suffered four successive failed rainy seasons, with another one likely, withering away harvests. Severe drought is also crippling communities across Afghanistan.
  • Many of the countries hit hardest by the food crisis are reliant on wheat exports from Ukraine, which have been disrupted – and prices skyrocketed – due to Russia’s invasion.

This is a hugely complex and urgent situation, but timely and targeted responses will make a difference for people facing life-threatening hunger.

Tearfund has partners actively working in the countries hardest hit by this hunger crisis including Afghanistan, Uganda, Yemen, Mozambique, Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Their long-term focus on supporting climate resilient agriculture, food security and livelihood projects is making a real and lasting impact. In the past year, this work has given thousands of people in these regions hope for the future – but the unfolding crisis means it is now more vital than ever. You can support this important work by donating to Tearfund’s Hunger Crisis Appeal.

Responses also need to come from those who can influence structural change, like government leaders. You can call on the ones who have committed to listen to you by urging your local MP to get behind a campaign asking the Australian Government to take action in the lead up to the Federal Budget (see Help Fight Famine).

All of these responses – the ones we have the power to make ourselves, and the ones we hope others will make with wise haste – are strengthened by prayer. Because prayer keeps our attention fixed on the situation, aligning our hearts with God’s heart. Prayer anchors whatever action we take in obedience, not obligation; in love, not fear.

Meeting the needs of hungry people is a signature move of Jesus throughout his ministry, and a story echoed throughout the Bible. From positioning Joseph to provide wise stewardship in famine-stricken Egypt, to raining manna from heaven in the wilderness; from feeding the multitudes on the mountainside to prompting the early church leaders to adapt the system so that no one missed out – God moves on behalf of people who hunger, and there are many different ways he meets their needs. Chances are, you’re one of them. At the very least, it will cost your attention. As Jesus said, “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40, The Message).

Support those hardest hit by the global hunger crisis: donate to Tearfund’s Hunger Crisis Appeal today.