Global Hunger Crisis: Over 700 Million People Face Uncertainty as Demand for Food Rises and Funding Dries Up
According to the World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director, Cindy McCain, the global hunger crisis has left more than 700 million people unsure about when or if they will have their next meal. As demand for food continues to rise relentlessly, humanitarian funding is drying up, exacerbating the situation further. This alarming revelation comes at a time when the world is halfway to the deadline set for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Unfortunately, there is little to no improvement in most of the food and agriculture-related goals, as highlighted by a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The report states that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with other crises like climate change and armed conflicts, is having widespread consequences. Progress made over the past two decades has stagnated and, in some cases, even reversed. The global food insecurity rate soared in 2020 due to disruptions in food markets and increased unemployment. Although hunger has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, approximately 29.6% of the global population, equivalent to 2.4 billion people, experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2022. This is a significant increase from 1.75 billion people in 2015.
The regions disproportionately affected by undernourishment are in the global south, with Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing the sharpest rise in hunger. Disturbingly, there has been no improvement in the goal to halve food waste, which has remained stagnant at around 13% since 2016. The report urges countries to implement policies that reduce food loss.
Cindy McCain, expressing her concerns, stated that the lack of funding has forced the WFP to cut food rations for millions of people, with further cuts anticipated. She stressed that the world is grappling with a series of concurrent and long-term crises that will continue to escalate humanitarian needs for years to come. According to the WFP, nearly 47 million people in over 50 countries are on the brink of famine, and a staggering 45 million children under the age of five are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition.
Moreover, based on WFP estimates from 79 countries, up to 783 million people, or one in 10 of the world’s population, go to bed hungry every night. The agency also warns that more than 345 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity this year, an increase of almost 200 million from early 2021, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The root causes behind the escalating numbers of hunger and food insecurity, according to the WFP, are a lethal combination of conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes, and soaring fertilizer prices. The economic repercussions of the pandemic, coupled with the war in Ukraine, have driven food prices out of reach for millions of people worldwide. At the same time, high fertilizer prices have led to a decrease in the production of essential crops like maize, rice, soybeans, and wheat.
To address this crisis effectively, Cindy McCain emphasized the need to establish ambitious, multi-sectoral partnerships capable of tackling hunger, poverty, and humanitarian needs over the long term. The UN Security Council meeting also included the participation of business leaders, such as Michael Miebach (CEO of Mastercard) and Jared Cohen (president of global affairs at Goldman Sachs). They emphasized the importance of the private sector’s involvement in providing financial support, expertise, and innovative solutions to improve humanitarian operations.
The funding gap remains a critical challenge, with over 80% of the $54 billion appealed for by the UN remaining unfulfilled. This demonstrates the urgent need to address the crisis in the humanitarian system. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also warned that the world is far from meeting the climate targets within the Sustainable Development Goals, which further undermines efforts to tackle hunger, poverty, and other aspects of the 2030 Agenda.
In conclusion, the global hunger crisis continues to worsen as demand for food increases while funding for humanitarian efforts declines. Urgent action is required to address the root causes of this crisis, including conflict, economic shocks, climate change, and soaring fertilizer prices. It is crucial for governments, the private sector, and international organizations to work together in multi-sectoral partnerships to alleviate hunger, poverty, and humanitarian needs. Otherwise, the devastating consequences of this crisis will persist for years to come, impacting the lives of millions worldwide.