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Teenage girl in Somalia
5 December 2023

When is enough not enough?

Fifteen-year-old Maryam fled with ten siblings to find food

Pictured: Maryam

by Matt Hyam, Senior Church Specialist, World Vision UK

If, like me, you’re becoming increasingly concerned about how people in your community are coping with the cost of living crisis, you may feel even more despair when considering the wider global hunger issue.

But don’t - there is good news and together we can be a part of it!

I’ll start by saying that a life of plenty for every child is possible and so it’s beyond disappointing that every day we hear that more and more children are going hungry. Despite the global number of children dying from hunger declining every decade since the 1980s, it’s now back on the rise. Children are bearing the brunt of an unequal food system disrupted by conflicts and climate change.

Enough of the right food and nutrition is still not reaching the children who need it.

This is just not good enough.

We believe there is enough in this world for every child - no matter where they live or the crises they face - to have the nourishing food they need to thrive. Life in all its fullness for children depends on nutritious and sufficient food. God created our planet with abundant resources to feed and nourish every single child right now and leave enough for future generations.

Food matters to God. In fact, one of the three tithes in Leviticus 14 is for the widows, orphans and immigrants - the first known existence in history of a “tax” specifically for the benefit of the poor!

We are called to share the resources and food we have with those who have not.

World Vision workers at displacement camp in Somalia
World Vision workers with Maryam and others

Maryam’s nightmare

The reasons for hunger vary depending on where people live. It could be that rising prices and falling family incomes are having an impact – including for many people in the UK. Or perhaps people have been forced from home through conflict. Or climate change is causing floods, or droughts - or both. And responses to the issues vary too.

For Maryam it was drought which drove her family to the edge.

At just 15, Maryam was forced to flee her hometown in search of food and water.

Enough was enough. Maryam had watched as the crops in her village wilted, livestock died and the children around her became ill with the effects of malnutrition. Maryam is at the epicentre of the worst drought Somalia has seen in 40 years, with famine looming.

And despite her young age, she had to make the most difficult decision of all - leaving her childhood home in search of food. The hardest part? Her mother was too sick to make the journey, so she was forced to flee, taking with her 10 younger siblings. All in hopes of finding enough food and water to survive.

The choice to leave her mother behind was one no daughter should ever have to make. But seeing her siblings suffer from malnutrition, Maryam knew she had to act quickly. She gathered her five sisters, five brothers, and her family’s remaining livestock. With nothing more, they started walking towards a humanitarian aid centre Maryam had only heard about. It was their only hope.

Somalia, where Maryam lives, is no stranger to the crippling effects of drought. In 2011, a lack of rainfall led to the most severe famine of the 21st century, resulting in over 250,000 deaths. Right now, a similar crisis is looming as prolonged drought pushes Somalia closer to the brink of famine.

The almost fatal journey

Before the journey began, Maryam knew hunger and thirst: a growling stomach, low energy, dizziness, problems focusing, and more. Still, nothing could have prepared her for the extremely difficult walk ahead of her.

Travelling under the scorching heat, their livestock were the first to perish. For families in this part of Somalia, livestock is everything. It’s a source of transportation, income and food.

Without the donkey's transport, their journey took longer, which meant their provisions had to stretch further. Water was extremely limited and two of the children nearly died of thirst. Had it not been for the three litres of water that a nearby family gave them, the family might not have made it.

Teenage girl in Somalia, smiling
Maryam smiles now she can feed her siblings

World Vision’s impact

Thankfully, despite all odds, Maryam and her younger siblings made it to the Kaharey centre, where World Vision is providing food vouchers and cash to 38,000 displaced families in Somalia every month, in partnership with the World Food Programme.

Maryam says, “There is no looking back. The place we left doesn’t have food and water. My mother had a leg injury. She couldn’t dare to take the risk knowing the suffering. I’m worried for my mother. She doesn't have anything to eat.

“We spent three days on the road. While on the road, our donkey cart broke. We lost some livestock on our way and left others on the road. It was horrible.

“Several of our children collapsed from thirst and had to be rescued by nearby families who provided us with three litres of water in order to keep us going.”

Maryam misses her mother and hopes for them to be reunited soon.

Hunger situation in Somalia

Tragically, Maryam’s story is not uncommon. In Somalia, at least seven million people don’t have access to enough food — let alone nourishing food — they need to thrive. As many as 213,000 children and their families are one step away from famine. In 2022 alone, more than a million people, mainly women and children, were forced to leave their homes in search of food due to failed rainy seasons year after year. Every year, drought dries up more and more of the resources families — like Maryam’s — desperately need to survive.

Children are not responsible for conflicts or climate change. They have no say in food supply shortages or hyperinflation. Yet, they are forced to walk through the consequences.

Greater and lasting change

World Vision began when one man - Bob Pierce - recognised it was his responsibility to provide for one hungry child in Korea. And many others since then have also seen the need and responded. His single act led to World Vision which, for over 70 years, has been increasing its work to break the cycle of hunger and malnutrition that blights children’s lives.

As we all work together we can ensure there’s enough, and achieve greater and lasting change for children. In fact, did you know that in the last five years, 89% of the severely malnourished children we treated made a full recovery.

We’re working with the most vulnerable children in the hardest places, providing food, water, child protection, education and other support, to see communities empowered and living life to the full.

When you partner with World Vision your effort is added to many others – which means that together we are bringing about greater change. We really are making a long-lasting difference to children’s futures. Join us today to say enough is enough for child hunger.

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