“My children are crying for food…”

The Ripple Effect of COVID-19 on the Poorest

For Sokina Begum, a young mom in rural Bangladesh, it’s not the threat of a deadly virus that keeps her up at night – it’s the cries of her children and the hunger pains in her own stomach.

The government lockdown in Bangladesh means her family is crowded together inside their tiny shack that’s part of a slum for landless, poor beggars. It also means she’s forbidden to leave the house to work. Sokina’s husband is crippled and unable to work, and her two daughters, ages 11 and 6, are hungry.

Sokina's family
Sokina’s family had run out of food. With no way to work, she felt hopeless. Just in time, World Concern staff delivered emergency food to her door.

Before the pandemic, she was earning about $2.35 a day collecting fish, which was enough to feed her family and even send her eldest daughter to school. But now, there’s no way to work, and their food supply had run out.

“If I do not work a day, our food and other things are uncertain. It has been more than 25 days. I have no work and I don’t have any savings,” said Sokina. “I can’t go to work anywhere. I am living a helpless life in this situation. My children are crying for food.”

But a ray of hope arrived at her door when World Concern staff delivered emergency food and hygiene supplies.

World Concern teams delivered emergency food packages to 480 families in Sokina’s neighborhood. Each family received 16 pounds of rice, 7 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of onions, plus lentils, oil, and salt.

“I believe this package came from God for our survival,” proclaimed Sokina, who believes the food came just in time. “Otherwise, we may have died.”

In addition to food packages, 4,000 masks and 3,000 bars of soap were distributed to families in need. Handwashing stations were also set up around villages, and important Coronavirus prevention information was broadcast over megaphones attached to rickshaws.

Father of four, Shajahan Bayati, also received emergency food and supplies for his family. Within a week of the lockdown, they had completely run out of food. Shajahan tried operating his rickshaw to earn some money, but was sent back home by the police.

Shajahan's family
Shajahan’s family was among nearly 500 families living in extreme poverty in rural Bangladesh who received emergency food and supplies during the country’s lockdown.

He was grateful to receive the desperately-needed food.

“It feels really good at that moment because I had nothing to eat,” he said. “Now we can have three full meals a day for a week and my children will be very happy.”

In Bangladesh, distributions are done house-to-house to avoid crowds, and staff and beneficiaries maintain safe distances and wear personal protection, such as masks and gloves.

Laos Rice DistributionIn countries like Laos, where rural farmers already struggle to earn sufficient income from the rice crops so many depend on for food, the COVID-19 crisis is making matters worse. Food supplies, market pricing, and distribution are all unstable.

To help ensure families have enough to eat, 270 farmers in 8 villages recently received 30 kilograms of rice seeds. Rice banks will be established in the villages, and these farmers will, in turn, 35 kilograms of their harvested seeds so that more farmers can borrow and benefit as well.

Farmer carrying rice seed.“We are thankful to World Concern for giving us this high-yield and quality variety of rice,” said one of the farmer, Mr. Bounkert.

A little girls eats a Nutripacket in Somalia.
Malnourished little ones, like this girl in Somalia, are receiving emergency nutrition to restore their weakened bodies to health.

As the pandemic worsens in developing countries, like Somalia, where COVID-19 comes on the heels of drought and locust infestations, food prices are skyrocketing and livestock herds diminishing. Hungry children received emergency nutrition packets that save lives and restore malnourished little ones to health.

As families and communities in the world’s poorest places do their best to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions and staying home, the very activities they depend on to survive are also limited, leading to hunger and despair.

With the critical support of donors, World Concern is working to assist families in greatest need and help them survive the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To donate, please visit: https://www.worldconcern.org/urgent

Bangladesh staff spread message by megaphone
World Concern staff in Bangladesh broadcast vital information about staying healthy over megaphones in areas where there’s no TV, internet, or radio.

How COVID-19 Puts Children at Greater Risk of Trafficking and Child Marriage

We’re all painfully aware of the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on families, jobs, small businesses, the economy, and nearly every aspect of our lives. The long-term impact and ripple effect of this virus could be devastating for many months.

The impact will be even greater on the world’s poorest families and on those whose lives are already a struggle.

For us, the grocery stores remain open and the supply chain is functioning. Not so in the developing world. Imagine if your only source of income and food was a market where you could sell a goat or other livestock to pay for necessities like food, water, and medicine. Now the government has had to close that market in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

“People are not scared of the virus, they’re scared of not having food,” explained one World Concern program manager.

Families who live in countries on lockdown can’t leave their home to work, or sell goods for income.

Now imagine you’re in this situation and you hear of a way to earn money in a city across the border. Someone told you there are jobs there. Your teenage daughter is healthy and strong and can make the journey. So you let her go… not knowing she’ll be sold as a slave into the sex industry.

Or, imagine a wealthier family offers to take your little girl into their home and pay for her living expenses if she’ll marry their son.

People who are hungry will do desperate things.

A crisis like this one that destroys already fragile economies and infrastructures puts those who are vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, child marriage, abuse and exploitation, at even greater risk.

World Concern’s model of community empowerment is effective in a crisis like this, as we’re able to incorporate COVID-19 messages and hygiene promotion within our community-based programs, such as care groups, nutrition programs, savings groups, and child protection programs.

Our long-term village development work is also proving to be vital in sustaining families and communities during this unique crisis. As families have learned to diversify their livelihoods and sources of income in preparation for crises, and to grow their own vegetables and sustainable crops, they are better able to survive.

Families learn to grow their own vegetables in South Sudan.

Parents who have received vital training and information on the dangers of trafficking and the harmful effects of child marriage are able to lean on that knowledge now more than ever, and avoid these risks, even in desperate times like this.

All the work that has been done—and is being done—in remote villages, crowded urban slums, and hard places beyond the end of the road, with the help of our supporters, is proving powerful and effective through crisis.

If you’re interested in helping protect the most vulnerable girls and boys from the increased danger they now face with COVID-19 and economic impacts in their communities, consider walking or running on May 9 in the 2020 Virtual Free Them 5k to stop child trafficking. Sign up here: www.freethem5k.org

Extreme weather brings chronic crises for families in East Africa

Places like Kenya and Somalia have been devastated by extreme weather in the past few years. Not only do families live in ongoing drought, but more recently, flooding has decimated the sparse conditions that remained in Somalia.

Continue reading Extreme weather brings chronic crises for families in East Africa

Emergency Nutrition Saves Children in Northern Kenya

Emergency nutrition is saving the lives of children who eat only once a day in parts of Northern Kenya.

Their mothers eat even less. They give everything they have to feed their children. Continue reading Emergency Nutrition Saves Children in Northern Kenya

A Light in the Darkest Place – Asha’s Story

This story is representative of what families are facing each day in dangerous conflict zones. As you read Asha’s story, put yourself in her shoes. What would you do without food for your children when even stepping outside puts yourself and your child in danger?

Continue reading A Light in the Darkest Place – Asha’s Story

What Is God’s Heart for Refugees?

photo by Helen Manson/Tearfund NZ

It’s a tendency some of us have – though we may not want to admit it. We look at someone or something from afar and infer we know most everything about them. Their personalities, behavior, and why they made the decisions they did.

But when we ask ourselves how God sees each person, then our hastily formed opinions shift perspective.

So today, let’s ask ourselves this question: What is God’s heart for refugees around the world? Continue reading What Is God’s Heart for Refugees?

Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 2

No one wants them.

Squalid, hastily constructed camps near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are the only places they can find refuge, the only places they can call home. But these camps are anything but safe and look nothing like home. No words can convey the magnitude of the Rohingya refugee crisis. Every person who crosses the border has their own horrific tale of loss.

Their stories deserve to be told.

Continue reading Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 2

Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 1

No one wants them.

Squalid, hastily constructed camps near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are the only places they can find refuge, the only places they can call home. But these camps are anything but safe and look nothing like home. No words can convey the magnitude of the Rohingya refugee crisis. Every person who crosses the border has their own horrific tale of loss.

Their stories deserve to be told. Continue reading Who are Rohingya Refugees? Part 1

What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Noor, a young mom, gave birth on the run. A month later, her malnourished body cannot produce milk to feed her baby. Every day Abu, her baby, grows weaker. She tries to crush rice and mix it with water, but it’s not enough. Her other five children run around and drink from contaminated ponds. If Noor isn’t eating, her children aren’t either.  Continue reading What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Emergency Survival Supplies Can Save Lives in South Sudan

As I see report after report of the destruction caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding, my thoughts turn to the crisis in South Sudan.

The images are chillingly similar. A woman stands amid the wreckage of her home in Houston, knee deep in water. A child in South Sudan stands beside a tarp upheld by a few sticks, wading in muddy water.

When disaster strikes at home, we can count on aid workers and our local government to provide shelter, food, and clean water. But in places like South Sudan, none of these provisions are available. Continue reading Emergency Survival Supplies Can Save Lives in South Sudan