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 ‘These Children Aren’t Dying of COVID—They’re Dying of Starvation,’ Says Compassion’s Santiago ‘Jimmy’ Mellado

May 11, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — There is nothing more urgent than feeding children at risk of starvation. And Compassion International’s Fill the Stadium (FtS)—an initiative that provides essential food, medical care and support to children  in the developing world  during the COVID-19 pandemic—is stepping up to fill a vast need this year, given that the head of the World Food Program believes that “famines of biblical proportions” are on the horizon. That’s because the economic struggles of COVID-19 may be standing in the way of global relief for food shortages.

“There are kids in crisis all around the world,” said Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, president and CEO of Compassion International. “These children aren’t dying of COVID-19. They’re dying of starvation.”

At the end of 2019, 135 million people were on the brink of starvation, mostly because of manmade conflict, not to mention extremes of climate and destabilized or fragile governments. Then came COVID-19.

The anticipated number based on economic deterioration and because of COVID-19 is now a stunning 270 million people who are marching toward starvation. It’s why Fill the Stadium is on an urgent mission to restore what the COVID-19 scourge has destroyed.

“With every single decision we make right now, we are writing the story of COVID-19 that one day will be told,” said Mellado. “It would be easy to retreat from fear, easy to close our eyes to the threats of this pandemic, and especially to all of the children in poverty around the world. But retreating from fear doesn’t save any lives or solve any challenges.” He added, “Let’s not lose the opportunity to do something extraordinary in this life.”

To date, more than $25 million has been raised in Compassion International’s Fill the Stadium initiative, aiding over 50,000 children and their families who are living in extreme poverty because of COVID-19. In addition, over 40 professional athletes and national leaders have personally joined the Fill the Stadium lead team to help save children in the developing world who are in crisis.

In leadership roles for Fill the Stadium efforts are such standout professional athletes as Nick Foles, professional football MVP quarterback; Adam Engel of the Chicago White Sox; Sam Burns, PGA TOUR golfer; Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Alyssa Naeher of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team; Jordy Nelson, former professional wide receiver; Carson Palmer, former professional quarterback; Devin and Jason McCourty, defensive backs of New England; Nate Solder of the New York Giants; Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes; Brock Huard, FOX sports broadcaster and former professional quarterback; and many others.

So far, the FtS initiative has “filled” over 50,000 seats—continuing the group’s commitment and leadership—in the path toward helping 70,000 children. In this era of coronavirus, “We are all experiencing the reality of empty stadiums,” says the Fill the Stadium team. “The average NFL stadium holds 70,000 seats.  We need to reach that many kids. That’s why this effort so desperately needs a caring, prayerful and thoughtful community to join together in this needed relief.”

To learn more, visit the Fill the Stadium website, and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Founded in 1952,Compassion International is a Christian child development organization that works to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Compassion revolutionized the fight against global poverty by working exclusively with the Church to lift children out of spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. Compassion partners with more than 8,000 churches in 25 countries to deliver its holistic child development program to over 2 million babies, children and young adults. Its child sponsorship program has been validated through independent, empirical research.


To interview a representative from Fill the Stadium, contact Hamilton Strategies, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.