When on February 24,2022, Russia ordered its tanks to move over its borders with Ukraine, what loomed large was not just the threat of war and its devasting humanitarian effects, but the clouds of hunger gathering over the world.
That the tanks were amassing on its borders a month before was not really as great a concern to Ukraine as the fact that Russia finally asked its troops and tanks to cross the border and spark a conflict that would have global consequences. This was exactly what happened on February 24, 2022.Four months later, many people around the world are feeling the bite of the war in Ukraine as painfully as the Ukrainians themselves.
A hungry world.
Even before the first Russian tank crossed the border with Ukraine, the world was already a hungry place with millions of people in some of the world`s poorest countries facing outright risk of starvation. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa were already facing grave risks of food insecurity.
In countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the devastating effects of climate change and the calamitous consequences of senseless conflicts have combined to leave many hanging by a thread. Millions face the risk of starvation as a result.
According to the World Food Programme of the United Nations, the global food crisis which has been fueled by conflict, climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic is growing because of the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine driving rising prices of food, fuel and fertilizer. Millions of people across the world are at risk of being driven into starvation unless action is taken now to respond at scale.
The risk has become real that global food and nutrition needs may soon outstrip the capacity of the United Nations World Food Programme or any organization`s ability to respond. Across the world, an estimated 50 million people across 45 countries are in emergency or worse levels of acute food insecurity.
With the reality of a global food crisis has also come some frightening records of malnutrition. The number of acutely malnourished people is also increasing, reaching record highs in places. Globally, sixty million children are acutely malnourished as of 2022, compared to 47 million in 2019 before COVID-19.
In the Sahel,6.3 million children are affected by acute malnutrition in 2022, the highest figure ever recorded for the region. Meanwhile, in the Horn of Africa,7 million children are acutely malnourished due to the combined effects of drought and conflict.
In response, the World Food Programme is prioritizing emergency action to prevent millions from dying of hunger and help build and stabilize national food systems and related supply chains. In the first quarter of 2022, WFP reached 83 million people or 55 percent of its annual targets.
In addition, WFP is implementing measures to reduce suffering, diversifying its supplier base, promoting local food procurement, and advocating for and negotiating humanitarian access and export waivers. WFP is also reshaping operations to optimize resources, shifting the focus of operations to sustain assistance, reducing food rations to prioritize those who are most in need, and stretching out support where feasible.
WFP has a plan for 2022 – its most ambitious in history – but needs a step-change to help deliver millions from disaster. WFP faces a triple jeopardy: operational costs are going up, as the numbers of the acutely hungry are rising to unprecedented levels, and at the same time, donors are being squeezed by multiple demands.
A lethal link
The links between conflict and hunger are clear. Conflict and insecurity are the main driver of food insecurity globally. Conflict displaces people, disrupts agricultural value chains and drives income losses and food price hikes. In 2021, 139 million people were in Crises or worse food insecurity in 24 countries where the lead driver was conflict and insecurity. Addressing hunger has been recognized as the foundation for stability and peace.
Other shapers of world hunger are rising crude prices, climate events which have become the new normal, risk of civil unrest,reduced funding which forces cuts among others.
WFP`s five calls to action
To arrest the global food crises, the WFP needs the current humanitarian needs to be met, support for global and regional initiatives to address hunger, measures taken to ensure trade remains open, investment in strategic development solutions and commitment to political solutions.
If these measures are taken and committed to, the global food crises will be better managed so as to preclude the needless suffering of millions, especially children.