Right now, lawmakers, businesses and families are attempting to reconcile the current economic turbulence with their budgets, contemplating economic forecasts with current needs. But in the developing world, millions of people are deciding whether they need to cut a meal or forego medicine for their child. These tales of economic woes have two very different faces. Organizations like Compassion International are working diligently to helping those in need from having to make these heart wrenching decisions, and still, people all over the world – and children in particular – are silently suffering as the global economic crisis claims lives every day.
This situation is certainly not new and some of us may have become desensitized to the barrage of images in the media depicting starving children. God says that there will always be poor in the land. However, He also gives Christians a mandate, not a suggestion, to help them. Even while international governments feverishly attempt to address the increasing number of people in need an awakened and engaged church is God’s greatest tool to help the poor. This is where Compassion’s mission begins.
When the global food crisis began, non-economic factors were blamed. World population growth, for example, was an easy culprit, followed by declining world food stores. Later, the prominence of biofuels and the impact of food for fuel became another problem that contributed to what was deemed the silent tsunami. Most recently, the worldwide increase of petroleum increased the price of food, and although gas prices have subsided, rising inflation in food production and transportation continues to have devastating affects on the world’s poorest.
In El Salvador, for example, it was assumed that the Central American country would be somewhat insulated from the rising inflation in the region due to their use of the US dollar as their national currency. However, in September, the Salvadoran government reported an inflation rate of 9.9% for the month of August, which was only somewhat lower than its neighbor Nicaragua which had the highest inflation rate in the region at 11.6%. Meanwhile, during this same time period, the U.S. was experiencing an inflation rate of 5.37%.
Other poorer nations are also feeling the effect of inflation as well. In the Philippines, for example, the price of commercial rice went up 68% over a period of about one year. In Bangladesh, rice doubled in price over the previous 8 to 10 months. In Haiti, rice has seen a 25% increase while other food items such as beans have seen a 16% increase and sugar a 40% increase. In Uganda, basic food staples such as millet, corn and flour now costs twice as much as it did just six months ago. These increases hit hardest on the poor, who were already spending 75% of their income on food prior to the crisis!
Average food prices around the world between 2006 and 2008 are even more staggering. Rice during this time rose by 217%, wheat by 136%, maize by 125% and soybeans by 107%. While most of us here in America will commit to cutting coupons to offset costs, the poor will cut meals. Many families throughout the world live on less than a dollar per day. Thus, these increases mean more than a tightening of the belt. It can literally affect their very survival.
So, the effort to end the global food crisis must not rest on solely resolving the economic crisis in America. With a global economy and political unrest brought about by poverty threatening US interests, organizations fighting on the front lines in the war against poverty must create long-term solutions that address sustainability and grow local resources. This is the only way to ensure that the effects of global economic crises are mitigated for the world’s poorest.
To be sure, the Global Food Crisis will not be resolved by what we all recognize as an often used “throw money at it” approach. Furthermore, the very survival of the largest segment of the global population should not be placed in the hands of the erratic behavior of Wall Street. Only a long-term, locally based strategy will have any chance of truly ending the global food crisis. At Compassion, we have already implemented that strategy which places the responsibility firmly in the hands of The Church, both in the field working with our children as well as here in America. Ultimately, it rests in the hands of God, which by all accounts, is a much safer place to be.
Mark Hanlon is Sr. Vice President for Compassion International’s USA Group. Compassion is a global holistic child development ministry that is Christ centered, child focused, church based and committed to integrity. Since 1952, Compassion has touched the lives of more than one million children. For information on Compassion International, visit http://www.compassion.com