The world is at risk of yet another year of record hunger as the global food crisis continues to drive yet more people into worsening levels of acute food insecurity, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in a call for urgent action to address the root causes of today’s crisis ahead of World Food Day, on 16 October.
The global food crisis is a confluence of competing crises – caused by climate shocks, conflict, and economic pressures – that has pushed the number of hungry people around the world from 282 million to 345 million in just the first months of 2022. WFP scaled up food assistance targets to reach a record 153 million people in 2022, and by mid-year we had already delivered assistance to 111.2 million people.
“We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst. For the last three years hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks. Let me be clear: things can and will get worse unless there is a large scale and coordinated effort to address the root causes of this crisis. We cannot have another year of record hunger,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
WFP and humanitarian partners are holding back famine in five countries – Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Too often it is conflict that drives the most vulnerable into catastrophic hunger, with communications disrupted, humanitarian access restricted, and communities displaced. The conflict in Ukraine has also disrupted global trade pushing up transport costs and lead times while leaving farmers lacking access to the agricultural inputs they need. The knock-on effect on upcoming harvests will reverberate around the world.
Climate shocks are increasing in frequency and intensity, leaving those affected no time to recover between disasters. An unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa is pushing more people into alarming levels of food insecurity, with famine now projected in Somalia. Floods have devastated homes and farmland in several countries, most strikingly in Pakistan. Anticipatory action must be at the core of the humanitarian response to protect the most vulnerable from these shocks – and a core part of the agenda at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) next month in Egypt.
Meanwhile, governments’ ability to respond is constrained by their own economic woes – currency depreciation, inflation, debt distress – as the threat of global recession also mounts. This will see an increasing number of people unable to afford food and needing humanitarian support to meet their basic needs.
WFP’s operational plan for 2022 is the agency’s most ambitious ever. It prioritises action to prevent millions of people from dying of hunger while working to stabilise – and where possible build – resilient national food systems and supply chains.
So far this year, WFP has increased assistance six-fold in Sri Lanka in response to the economic crisis, launched an emergency flood response in Pakistan, and expanded operations to records levels in Somalia as famine looms. In Afghanistan, two out of every five Afghans have been supported by WFP assistance. WFP also launched an emergency operation in Ukraine and opened a new office Moldova to support families fleeing the conflict.
With the cost of delivering assistance rising and lead times increasing, WFP continues to diversify its supplier base, including boosting local and regional procurement: so far in 2022 47 percent of the food WFP has purchased is from countries where we operate – a value of US$ 1.2 billion. WFP has also expanded the use of cash-based transfers to deliver food assistance in the most efficient and cost-effective way in the face of these rising costs. Cash transfers now represent 35 percent of our emergency food assistance.
WFP has secured US$655 million in contributions and service provision agreements from international financial institutions to support national social protection systems. Similar efforts are underway to expand innovative climate financing partnerships. WFP continues to support governments with supply chain services, such as the procurement and transport of food commodities to replenish national grain reserves to support national safety net programmes.
While these efforts provide succour to some of the severely vulnerable, it is against a challenging global backdrop in which the number of acutely hungry people continues to increase requiring a concerted global action for peace, economic stability and continued humanitarian support to ensure food security around the world.