Ending world hunger is one of the greatest challenges of our times. Hunger kills more than Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined. According to a report from the United Nations, 690 million people around the world go to bed hungry. This number has slowly been on the rise, and if it continues at this rate, it’ll exceed 840 million by 2030.
May 28th is the Annual World Hunger Day created by The Hunger Project to bring awareness to the more than 690 million people living in chronic hunger during an unprecedented global crisis.
Hunger is not just about food. As said by The Hunger Project, “Hunger and poverty are inextricably linked to a nexus of issues including healthcare, decent work opportunities, education, social justice, the rights of women and girls, the environment and climate change”.
Coronavirus has spread across the globe and has had a dramatic impact on the poorest communities - those living in hunger, where social distancing is a privilege, and who don’t have the same access to information, sanitation and healthcare as we do.
World hunger and malnutrition levels intensified over the last two years due to COVID-19, especially in hunger hotspots like Brazil, India and South Africa. These areas also saw some of the highest spikes in COVID-19 infections.
No jobs meant no food. Millions of jobs were lost due to restrictions such as quarantines, travel restrictions, lack of tourism, and other lockdown measures that stopped businesses from trading. This led to a huge number of parents not being able to provide for their children and families. The poorest and most vulnerable communities were suffering devastating losses by not having access to social protection like state benefits or healthcare.
COVID-19 has also had an effect on supply chains, which has a knock-on effect on food prices, and made meals unaffordable for millions of people.
On top of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic, says David Beasley - UN World Food Programme Executive Director. Influences such as this pandemic, climate change or economic turbulence affect millions of people on the edge of food insecurity because of price hikes or breaks in the food supply chain.
Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten the lives of many people around the world. After remaining relatively unchanged for five years, the number of undernourished people rose by 10% during 2020.
In many parts of the world, the pandemic has triggered brutal recessions and affected access to food. Although hunger was spreading before the pandemic, the coronavirus has heightened food insecurity. What we saw as a global health crisis has quickly spiralled into a hunger crisis, leaving millions on the brink of starvation.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is further disrupting a global food crisis that was already damaged by COVID-19 and climate changes. When conflict and hunger go hand in hand, the world’s most disadvantaged and excluded pay the highest price.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine isn't only affecting the lives of Ukraine's citizens, the war is also leading to a rise in malnutrition and even starvation around the world. Many countries have already been struggling with rising food, fuel, and fertilizer prices. The war in Ukraine and economic sanctions on Russia are restricting food production and trade, shortages are increasing, and prices are going up further.
Together, Russia and Ukraine provide around 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley, one fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil. At the same time, the Russian Federation is the world’s top natural gas exporter, and second-largest oil exporter. Together, neighbouring Belarus and the Russian Federation also export around a fifth of the world’s fertilizers.
Because Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain exporters, the barrier is creating the worst global food security crisis in 50 years, with the potential to drive 50 million people into starvation.
Yes, there is still enough food to feed the world without the contributions from Ukraine and Russia, the problem is the increased price of that food.
In late October, David Beasley urged billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to “step up now, on a one-time basis” to address hunger globally. “Six billion [dollars] to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated.”
For billionaires like Elon Musk, 6 billion dollars is only 2% of his net worth, a number which may not even affect him, but he wanted to see how the money would be spent.
Apart from the breakdown that was given by the UN, 6 million dollars will not solve the hunger crisis, it would only provide the 45 million people affected with 1 meal a day for a year. But what then?
Investing in climate-resilient food systems with key involvement of smallholder farming is one of the answers to address the issue. 193 countries have signed an agreement committing to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 and have outlined strategies that are underway.
What causes hunger in most cases is not the absence of food but the presence of war and political instability. Beasley tweeted in response to the Twitter thread, “If you don’t feed people, you feed conflict, destabilization & mass migration”.
On World Hunger Day, and every day - the world needs to come together with a shared goal of realizing healthy, fulfilling lives of self-reliance and dignity for all people.
There is a lock down that we are all aware of, yes. But there is no lockdown on communication, love, inspiration, thinking, there is no lock down on HOPE. We can still inspire change. We can still strive towards a world that is free from huger.