Standing strong for a hungerfree world: Thabani’s story

by: Thabani Maphosa, Partnership Leader for Food Assistance for World Vision International

It was an April Sabbath day in 1992. The worship service was drawing to a close with a beautiful hymn, We Are Marching to Zion. I was eagerly anticipating the chorus as this was normally the highlight of my worship, where I get to sing the loudest (the joy of not being a gifted singer). Suddenly, I felt dizzy and with a thud, I fell down. I woke up 30 minutes later on a shed behind the church, my shirt had been taken off, and my upper body was wet. Several kids and some elderly women surrounded me.

As I regained my senses, I remembered with frustration that I had missed the highlight of my worship: the chorus. I also had this sense of defeat and shame, because many children had fainted before me and we had been joking that they were weak. What was really happening this Sabbath day in 1992: a drought had engulfed my native country of Zimbabwe and there was not enough to eat. My fainting was a symptom of the bigger fight with hunger each of us was battling!

As I reflect on the events of that specific day, I realise that hunger strips people of our dignity and denies us the ability to participate meaningfully in all aspects of life, not least worship!

I hope this excerpt of my life’ story gives you an understanding of why choosing a career dedicated to ending hunger was a no-brainer for me. I believe we must fight hunger with everything we’ve got. From my personal and World Vision’s experiences, a champion for a HungerFree world must be:

  1. Partners – We collaborate with communities to build their own capacity to feed themselves either through growing and storing their own food or earning enough income to purchase food for their families.
  2. Alarm Raisers – because of our long-term presence in vulnerable communities, we can detect food insecurity in its early stages which means we can let those in charge know there is a problem early on so they can take early action. Intervening early to prevent a disaster is much more cost effective than responding once a full-blown emergency has taken hold.
  3. Reactive – When a disaster strikes, we respond quickly to reduce suffering and prevent families having to adopt negative coping strategies, such as reducing meals or taking children out of school, which reduce their ability to recover over the long-term.
  4. Advocates – we stand together will all those who share a vision of a world free from hunger, advocating for the resources and political will needed to address hunger in the short and long term.

More than 25 million people are facing severe hunger in East Africa, with Somalia,  and South Sudan at credible risk of famine, and millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia facing extreme food shortages. More than 800,000 boys and girls who are severely malnourished are struggling to survive. The number of refugees crossing the border into northern Uganda to flee violence and hunger in South Sudan has now surpassed 1 million.

The term famine means something very specific in our industry. It means hunger has become so widespread and so severe that a significant number of adults and children are dying due to lack of food on a daily basis. It means we are too late when hunger is killing people. In 2011, a famine was declared in Somalia and killed 260,000 people – sadly, half of them died before famine was declared and half of those that died were young children.

My personal experience with hunger and how the generosity of the American people reached me when I needed it most helped me to understand that hunger may cause weeping to endure for the night, but joy will indeed come in the morning! The number of hungry people has dropped by a staggering 200 million people since 1992, yes that 1992 that humiliated me. Such progress gives me hope that a hunger free world is possible within our lifetime!

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