Conflict, COVID, the climate crisis and rising costs have combined in 2022 to create jeopardy for the world’s 811 million hungry people
marching towards starvation
As up to 811 million people go to bed hungry every night, the number of those facing acute food insecurity has more than doubled - from 135 million to 345 million - since 2019. A total of 50 million people are facing emergency levels of hungerin 45 countries.
This seismic hunger crisis has been caused by a deadly combination of four factors.
Conflictis still the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world's hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence. Events unfolding in Ukraine are further proof of how conflict feeds hunger, forcing people out of their homes and wiping out their sources of income.
Climate shocksdestroy lives, crops and livelihoods, undermine people’s ability to feed themselves, and have displaced 30 million from their homes globally in 2020.
The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are driving hunger to unprecedented levels.
And, last but not least, the cost of reaching people in need is rising: the price WFP is paying for food is up 44 percent compared to 2019, an additional US$73 million a month (up from US$42 million at the beginning of the year - before the crisis in Ukraine).
The world is facing a global hunger crisis of unprecedented proportions in 2022 and we are at a critical crossroads.
From the Central American Dry Corridor and Haiti, through the Sahel, Central African Republic, South Sudan and then eastwards to the Horn of Africa, Syria, Yemen and all the way to Afghanistan, there is a ring of fire stretching around the world where conflict and climate shocks are driving millions of people to the brink of starvation.
While needs are sky-high, resources have hit rock bottom. The World Food Programme (WFP) requires US$22.2 billion to reach 152 million people in 2022. However, with the global economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the gap between needs and funding is bigger than ever before.
Unless the necessary resources are made available, lost lives and the reversal of hard-earned development gains will be the price to pay.
In countries like Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, WFP is already faced with hard decisions, including cutting rations to be able to reach more people. This is tantamount to taking from the hungry to feed the starving.
The consequences of not investing in resilience activities will reverberate across borders. If communities are not empowered to withstand the shocks and stresses they are exposed to, this could result in increased migration and possible destabilization and conflict. Recent history has shown us this: when WFP ran out of funds to feed Syrian refugees in 2015, they had no choice but to leave the camps and seek help elsewhere, causing one of the greatest refugee crises in recent European history.
The time to act is now
Levels of humanitarian and development assistance must be stepped up to allow WFP to continue its life-saving work in emergencies but also to build the ability of families and communities to feed themselves and break their dependence on humanitarian support.
Evidence shows this approach pays dividends. In just three years to 2021, WFP and local communities turned 272,000 acres of barren fields in the Sahel region of five African countries into productive farmland, changing the lives of over 2.5 million people and contributing to peace and stability. In Bangladesh in 2020, WFP supported 145,000 people with cash assistance ahead of severe forecast flooding. This empowered them to buy food and medicine, protect critical assets and transport livestock and families to safe places, preventing losses and damages. This cut the emergency response cost by over half.
However, to achieve Zero Hunger, money is not enough. Only political will can end conflict in places like Yemen, Ethiopia and South Sudan, and without a firm political commitment to contain global warming as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, the main drivers of hunger will continue unabated.
With an operational footprint in over 120countries, WFP works alongside the hungry on the frontlines of starvation.
We deliver programmes that save lives with emergency food assistance and change lives with resilience programmes, and we are the partner of choice for national governments across the world. Our work in using food as a pathway to peace led to WFP being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
WFP collaborates closely with other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide an integrated package of support for the people we serve. We deliver logistical support as a common service to the entire humanitarian community, helping them to stay and deliver.
Guided by a vision that has people at its heart, WFP is harnessing the benefits of digital transformation in all its operations. From school meals programmes to emergency response, climate change mitigation to support for smallholder farmers, we are seeking out new approaches, tools and systems that enable us to do more in our work to end hunger.