As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to worsen an already tenuous food situation for millions across the globe, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has announced a campaign to help address global hunger.
“Now is the time for us to lead the way forward to ensure that these communities have the support they need to make it through this crisis and beyond,” said CRS president and CEO Sean Callahan this week.
“If we don’t provide adequate food to children now, it will impact them for the rest of their lives.”
Catholic Relief Services warned that a food crisis already existed in many countries before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, unemployment, lockdowns, heightened food prices, and supply disruptions have made it even more difficult for impoverished families in many areas to get food.
“The shadow pandemic of worsening hunger is playing out in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries,” said Callahan.
The World Food Program has warned that the pandemic could double the number of people facing acute hunger or starvation, which already stands at 135 million.
Pope Francis has highlighted food insecurity in his homilies and addresses. In his comments on the COVID pandemic earlier this month, the pope noted that more than 3.7 million people have died from hunger so far this year. He warned of a “pandemic of hunger” that is not receiving adequate attention.
In response to the global crisis, Catholic Relief Services has launched a “Lead the Way on Hunger” campaign, calling for greater awareness, advocacy and fundraising to address global hunger rates.
The relief agency is encouraging Catholics to educate themselves and become involved in the effort to fight global hunger. It is asking Americans to contact their representatives in support of specific legislation, such as the Global Thrive Act (H.R. 4864), which would integrate early childhood development efforts – including health and nutrition assistance – into already-established foreign aid programs.
The campaign also encourages Catholics to donate to relief efforts when possible as a sign of solidarity with those who are suffering, and to help spread awareness on social media with the hashtag #LeadNow.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited the faithful to offer a prayer at noon on May 24 as part of the campaign.
“At this critical time, CRS’ ‘Lead the Way on Hunger’ campaign is an important expression of our Church’s steadfast commitment to global solidarity, to working for the common good, and to the upholding of human dignity,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a member of the CRS board.
“We believe that each life, no matter how vulnerable, is precious.”
Catholic Relief Services is active in many countries to help alleviate food insecurity. In Guatemala, the agency is helping offer packages of rice, corn, beans and oil for children who are at risk of malnutrition and often receive their only meal of the day through distribution programs at their schools, which are now closed due to the pandemic. In the Philippines, CRS aided a home for people with disabilities to acquire a one-month supply of food and hygiene items.
Catholic Relief Services is also helping with instructions and supplies for hand-washing and sanitization, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Callahan urged Americans to be involved in efforts to alleviate acute hunger for the most vulnerable populations.
“The welfare of the next generation hangs in the balance,” he said.