A cocktail of conflict, climate change and Covid has resulted in “catastrophic” food shortages in 44 countries.
Nearly a billion people around the world are starving, at levels classified as “alarming” in nine countries and “serious” in 34 others.
Experts warn that the situation could “deteriorate significantly” over the next year if current pressures continue.
This is despite their belief that “there is already enough food to feed everyone in the world; those who are starving simply do not have access”.
The most glaring details are contained in the latest annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) compiled by the Irish aid organization Concern and its German counterpart, Welthungerhilfe.
It says 828 million people are not getting enough to eat, a number that signals a reversal of a decade of progress in reducing hunger levels.
The authors’ recommendations include a call for governments to enshrine in law the “right to food” for all people.
“Progress in tackling world hunger has largely stalled,” said Dominic MacSorley, Concern’s chief executive, who has witnessed many hunger crises firsthand.
“The toxic cocktail of conflict, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic had already exposed millions of people to food price shocks and left them vulnerable to further crises.
“Now the war in Ukraine, with its knock-on effects on world supplies and food, fertilizer and fuel prices, is turning a crisis into a disaster,” he said.
The GHI measures hunger in 136 of the world’s poorest countries using four key indicators – general undernutrition, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality.
Although there are differences between regions and within countries, some general trends are emerging.
South Asia has the highest rates of child stunting and wasting in the world.
In sub-Saharan Africa, malnutrition and child mortality rates are higher than in any other region in the world.
Meanwhile, parts of East Africa are experiencing one of the worst droughts in the past 40 years, threatening the survival of millions of people.
The countries most affected are Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. While many of these countries have suffered from ongoing conflict, the intersection of war with the legacy of Covid and the increasing impact of climate change have deepened their hunger crisis.
Four failed rainy seasons in a row have brought millions of people to the brink of starvation in East Africa, and official famine is expected to be officially declared in Somalia soon.
“Climate change is putting pressure on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and increasingly hampering efforts to meet human needs,” says the report.
“As climate-related extremes reduce agricultural and fisheries productivity, this leads to increasing food insecurity, water scarcity and malnutrition.”
The report calls on all governments to enshrine a right to food into national law, backed by grievance resolution mechanisms.
“All actors – from citizens to regional and international organizations to courts at all levels – should help hold governments to account,” it says.
It also calls for increased humanitarian assistance to alleviate immediate crises, a review of international food production and trade systems, and much larger investments to make agriculture and food production more resilient to climate change and shocks.
The report points to the impact of the war in Ukraine, which has disrupted Ukrainian and Russian grain and fertilizer exports on which many poorer countries depend.
However, she stresses, “The severity and speed of the impact on hunger is largely due to the fact that millions of people were already living on the precarious frontier of starvation.”
It says this is due to “a legacy of past failures in building more equitable, sustainable and resilient food systems”.
It recommends greater local control over food production and stocks within countries, and better use of early warning systems and flexible emergency funds to anticipate shocks and respond more quickly.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/a-billion-hungry-people-conflict-covid-and-climate-change-could-leave-many-close-to-famine-42062729.html A billion people starving: Conflict, Covid and climate change could bring many close to famine