Gospel for Asia predicts that some nine million people will die this year from the coronavirus-worsened "scandal of starvation" worldwide – a foreseen tragedy the missions group says is easily avoidable.
The Texas-based Christian missions organization first announced the sobering truth in its special report, The Scandal of Starvation in a World of Plenty, late last month before this year's annual World Hunger Day observed on May 28. In that report, GFA also divulges a scandalous reality.
"Approximately $1 trillion of food is lost or wasted every year – accounting for roughly one-third of the world's food," GFA's report reveals. "According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reversing this trend would preserve enough food to feed 2 billion people – that's more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe."
The trillion-dollar waste, according to GFA, comes from families, restaurants and hospitals worldwide – an amount that could feed one out of every four people on the planet.
"Hunger increased around the world for the third successive year in 2018 – the most recent year for statistics – with more than 820 million people not getting enough to eat," it notes in the report. "South Asia [is] the worst-hit region – home to two-thirds of the world's malnourished children."
According to WorldHungerDay.org, 98% of the undernourished in the world live in developing countries, 60% of those living in hunger globally are women – and more people worldwide die from hunger than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
The poorest living in developing nations are being hit the worst, as coronavirus lockdowns have skyrocketed their unemployment – not to mention the fact that they do not receive assistance, such as stimulus checks or jobless benefits as many do in America to keep food on the table.
GFA founder K.P. Yohannan – whose mission organization is feeding tens of thousands of needy people in South Asia during the pandemic – is concerned about COVID-19's collateral damage.
"The coronavirus itself is a deadly, terrible event, but more people are dying – and will die – of starvation," Yohannan warns.
Where's the food?
Even though the United States is among the world's most affluent nations, nearly 40 million Americans – including 11 million children – were considered "food insecure" and living in hunger in 2018.
"The extent of 'hidden hunger' is alarming – even in wealthy countries," Yohannan points out. "Yet while the world produces a harvest big enough to feed everyone on the planet one-and-a-half times over, a third of all the food produced goes to waste. It's horribly shocking."
Countries such as India are making a concerted effort to combat the blatant daily waste of food.
"Launched in Delhi, India in 2014, the Robin Hood Army – a movement of volunteers who collect and distribute leftover food from restaurants and other businesses – has served more than 26 million meals in 150-plus cities in a dozen countries, all from 'surplus' food that would have been discarded," GFA notes.
The missions team is also doing its part to make sure the destitute are getting fed during the crisis.
"[A]mid COVID-19 lockdowns, local GFA churches and community teams are distributing staples such as rice," GFA reports. "Thousands of congregations are involved, bringing food and water to migrant workers facing starvation."
In India – where more than 90% of workers have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 – one GFA field worker says coronavirus precautions are not people's top priority.
"In the face of hunger, social distancing will always come second," he said, as 600 migrant workers swarmed a relief truck in one location alone.
GFA team leader Martin Mor Aprem Episcopa – a local bishop – sacrifices much to deliver food daily.
"God forbid, but if I die, please take care of my wife and two girls," Episcopa pleaded. "We know the risk we're taking, but we must go out and keep doing what we're doing … this is sometimes the only food they'll get in three days."
Yohannan urges Christians to live by examples put before them.
"The prime minister of India and government officials everywhere are doing their best to care for the poor and needy and helping our church workers to serve their neighbors," the ministry founder shares. "It's easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, but one person can make a difference.
"As Mother Teresa said, 'If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.' It's as simple as the words of Jesus: 'I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat,'" Yohannan concludes.