SEATTLE, Washington — The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every nation in the world, with most European and North American countries struggling to make ends meet. Fighting hunger in countries like Mexico, which had already been experiencing high rates of hunger and poverty before the pandemic, is now facing increasing challenges.
Hunger in Mexico Prior to COVID-19
Before the pandemic, 53% of Mexican citizens were already suffering from poverty, of which 24% were considered to be extremely poor and surviving on $1 a day. Living in poverty means that for the majority of the year, impoverished communities are not meeting their basic nutritional needs. In 2010, the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) found that 13% of children aged 5 and younger in Mexico were chronically malnourished. In 2016, the percent for those under 5 experiencing physical and psychological stunting and wasting, the two of the types of malnutrition, maintained high at 12%.
The majority of the population experiencing hunger in Mexico lives in rural areas, as hunger and malnutrition are closely tied to the socio-economic status of the population.
How COVID-19 Impacts Hunger in Mexico
With the rising socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, many Mexican workers are forced to choose between staying at home to prevent contracting the virus and working to provide nutritious food for their families. Millions of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, with the unemployment rate rising up by 10%. Moreover, the Mexican government is not providing sufficient economic assistance.
The issue is that those who are most affected by the pandemic economically are also the ones suffering most health-wise. According to Hector Hernandez, a UNAM demographer, more than 70% of those who died from COVID-19 often did not even have elementary-school education. The virus has been reinforcing the divide between socioeconomic statuses and the government has not put a substantial effort to stop it.
New Initiatives Fighting Hunger in Mexico
The virus’s impact on Mexican patriotism and the unity of the people was unexpected. During such a global disaster many countries were forced to rely on the goodwill of the people and feeling of unity and duty to their country to protect and aid others. For Mexico, that sense of duty was instilled in the people by the church. With the government ignoring the growing issue of hunger and starvation, Mexican bishops have united to propose a new initiative: Families Without Hunger.
On April 24, 2020, the bishops released a statement in which they encouraged all citizens to put aside their differences and come together to fight hunger in Mexico amid this unprecedented time. The statement’s message is spread by priests in every Catholic church across Mexico, where they have all agreed that “no one goes hungry.” As such, every priest will do what they can to provide food for those in need. With 81% of the Mexican population being Catholic, the church is a great way to spread a message of charity and unity while encouraging people to act. The bishops have also started a helpline for emotional and psychological support, as these services are much needed amid the global crisis.
In these unprecedented times, it is hard to know where help will come from and every nation must find its own path to recuperation. Fighting hunger in Mexico during COVID-19 means the Catholic church is one of the major providers of hope for citizens.