POSTED March 23, 2022
How is the rising cost of living challenging vulnerable communities?
Families in countries we help are facing new barriers to nourishment, education and more
By Crystal Lee, editorial manager, Canada
Have you heard the saying, “An empty stomach has no ears”? I’m glad if you haven’t.
The African expression highlights the impact nourishment has on learning. The subtext is even more telling; it describes the challenges of poverty and access to food for many children on the continent. This creates barriers for them to learn, grow and, ultimately, improve their circumstances.
COVID-19 has intensified poverty and food insecurity globally, leading to malnutrition or worse. Children Believe’s in-country teams have shared how the rising cost of living is challenging the most vulnerable. Here, Abel, our communication’s assistant from Burkina Faso, shared what it’s like in the rural community of Zam. He writes:
“A year ago, the population of Zam generally did not have such great difficulty with food. A dish of small millet cost 450F, large millet was 400F, corn was 500F and a litre of oil, 750F. Five hundred francs was enough to pay for three meals a day.
With the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen food and other basic goods become scarce, driving up costs. Small millet is now 750F, big millet is 700F, corn 700F and oil 1,100F per litre. Income has not risen. In fact, people are still recovering from livelihood losses as a result of the pandemic. Families who once saved 500F for three meals a day are now struggling to adequately feed their children. They now need more than 1,000F.
Families are finding it very difficult to survive. Children are at risk of malnutrition. Without food, they’re having a hard time participating in a continuous 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. school day and following their school lessons, which is affecting their academic results.”
How has COVID-19 affected vulnerable economies around the world?
Since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew closing borders, enforcing lockdowns and investing large sums of money in health and humanitarian aid was an important but risky step.
As we’ve witnessed, economies plummeted and numerous businesses, especially small, shut down, further fuelling the scarcity of goods and services. These factors, along with internal country conflicts and recent geopolitical events, have led to a steep rise in prices, making inflation a reality across the globe.
Those in precarious situations prior to the pandemic are at risk of devastating consequences like starvation and entrenched poverty.
How has COVID-19 affected vulnerable communities we help?
The vulnerable children and families Children Believe works with have experienced the brunt of COVID-19’s disproportionate impact. They were already struggling to pay for food and school. Inflation has further reduced their ability to meet their basic needs.
In Ethiopia, the cost of living has increased 157 percent from 2014 to 2021, and India’s inflation rate hit 38 percent for the same period. Costs have risen in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nicaragua and Paraguay, as well.
Below are examples of the impact of rising costs in our program communities:
- Burkina Faso: Small millet has risen from C$0.96 to C$1.60 — mothers tell us they can only afford one meal a day for their family.
- Ghana: Bread has almost doubled in price from C$0.95 to C$1.71 — staple foods are becoming out of reach.
- Ethiopia: Soap has tripled in price from C$0.32 to C$0.97 — the higher cost of necessities for hygiene are forcing families to choose between health and food.
- Paraguay: A school uniform rose significantly in price from C$115 to C$165 — direct school costs have risen rapidly and have made it difficult for parents to keep their children in school.
- Nicaragua: The cost of transportation has doubled from C$0.11 to C$0.21 — the rise in indirect school costs are creating greater barriers to education.
- India: It’s becoming more challenging to implement program activities. For example, a recent community training session was scaled back 20 percent, due to increased expenses.
Without job opportunities and increases in salaries and income to counter the rising costs, more and more people are struggling to survive.
How is Children Believe supporting communities through inflation?
Children Believe is working hard to help children and families in our program communities during this difficult time. With inflation, program expenses have risen, as well. But it is exceptionally important that we maintain our standard of care now, when it’s clear the need is even greater.
Where we can, we’re providing food, supplies and cash transfers, while continuing to support village-savings-and-loans groups and skills-training so young people can start small businesses. We’re committed to providing programs and services our communities depend on.
We’re immensely grateful to our dedicated and generous donors who make our work possible. It is through their deep compassion we can ensure young people continue to dream of a brighter future.
ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE:
Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.
About ChildFund Alliance:
A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.