IMPACT

Malnourished Families Wait To Eat So Everyone Is Fed, Teach Us A Lesson In Compassion

02/24/2015 12:51 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2015

Making sacrifices is an unavoidable part of daily life for impoverished people, but many families will do whatever it takes to not give up a beloved tradition.

Across the globe, 805 million people struggle with hunger, but when poor families manage to scrape some food together, many make a point of sharing it only when all members of the clan can gather around the table.

To demonstrate how committed underserved families are to this ritual –- and that hunger can be eliminated in “our lifetime” -- the World Food Program (WFP) asked people across the globe to share images that capture loved ones breaking bread together. The aid organization, which has partnered with the EU to help feed people in need, received photos from 32 countries, and tasked celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, photographer Chris Terry and the general public with selecting their favorites.

One of the two winning photos selected by Oliver and Terry was that of a Rshi family in Laos preparing a traditional meal, called Khauchi Papa, to celebrate the new year.

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The winning photo, as decided by the public, was an image of a group of street children in Burundi crowded around a plate of food.

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In the impoverished Southeast African country that’s been ravaged by civil war, as many as 58 percent of the population is chronically malnourished, according to WFP.

Since many of the underserved kids there have lost family members to conflict, they rely on their peers for support and aid organizations for nourishment.

Darine Ndihokubwayo, who works with Food for the Hungry, a nonprofit that helps struggling communities, shot the photo and told WFP that the colorful scene reflects a nascent tradition in Burundi.

Every Sunday, her nonprofit gathers street children together to share a meal.

“Feeling accepted and cared for gives them an opportunity to have a better social life and integrate in school,” she said in a statement.

Some of the most powerful images demonstrate how families make do even while under constant distress.

  • For their choice of "second winner," Terry and Oliver picked "Candlelight Supper," an image by Breech Asher Harani. It zeroes in on a family in the Philippines eating dinner together with nothing but a candle illuminating the bare room. For decades, millions of people in the Philippines have faced constant power blackouts, an issue that stretches back to 1986 when the country postponed its sole nuclear plant, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Though Laos has made steady economic growth over the past decade, malnutrition -- particularly among children in rural areas -- remains concernedly high. Stunting rates among children under 5 are as high as 58 percent in the northern highland provinces, Irin News reported. Families lack nutrition knowledge and access to animal protein, which leads them to rely heavily on rice, and miss out on crucial nutrients. In this WFP photo, a Khan family prepares a meal of fish caught from a nearby stream in the highlands of Laos. Photo by: Ari Vitikainen
  • Though Cambodia has made notable economic gains since the '90s, a significant portion of the population is considered "near poor" and could easily slip back into poverty if confronted with a slight misfortune, according to WFP. In this photo, a street vendor in Phnom Penh takes a break to share a meal with her sick child. Photo by: Ari Vitikainen
  • Hunger has become a plaguing concern in Sierra Leone since the historic Ebola outbreak hit, according to the Associated Press. There, entire farming communities in some parts of the country have been wiped out. In this photo, taken last June, a group of mothers in a rural village in Sierra Leone feed their children porridge for lunch. Photo by: Loulou Chayama
  • Nearly 16 percent of the population in Vietnam lives below the poverty line, according to Heifer International. In this image, a family in a North Vietnamese tribe shares a meal and invited the photographer to join them. Photo by: Roberta Sassolini

Learn more about the World Food Program's "Family Meal" photo series and how you can get involved with helping hungry families here.

CLARIFICATION: Language has been amended to reflect that the second-winning photo, from the Philippines, was the judge's second choice and not a "second-place" winner.

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