Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Alamy Stock Photo A camel in southwest Somalia, which has been hit by devastating drought. April 2022
Food Crisis

World hunger at 'catastrophic' levels amid 'toxic cocktail' of conflict, climate change and Covid

44 countries around the world are currently suffering serious or alarming levels of hunger.

RUSSIA’S WAR ON Ukraine is turning global hunger from a “crisis into a catastrophe”, according to a new report.

The new 2022 Global Hunger Index has outlined that 44 countries are currently suffering serious or alarming levels of hunger, with a staggering 828 million people undernourished – many of them children. 

The war in Ukraine has increased the price of food, fuel and fertilisers and comes on top of underlying factors such as poverty, inequality, inadequate governance, poor infrastructure and low agricultural productivity, the report outlines.

The world is facing a third global food price crisis in 15 years and a famine is likely to be officially declared in Somalia in the coming months, where at least one million people have already been displaced due to devastating drought conditions.

Although most regions are not in quite as troubling a position as they were in the early 2000s, Concern Worldwide Chief Executive Dominic MacSorley said that progress that had been made to tackle world hunger has largely halted.

The report details that global progress against hunger has stagnated in recent years and that the situation is likely to further decline due to the war in Ukraine, other conflicts, the climate crisis and the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s sobering that 828 million people are undernourished today and many of them are children who should not be suffering in a world with so much food and wealth,” MacSorley said.

He said the “toxic cocktail of conflict, climate change, and the Covid-19 pandemic had already left millions exposed to food price shocks and vulnerable to further crises”.

Now the war in Ukraine—with its knock-on effects on global supplies of and prices for food, fertilizer, and fuel—is turning a crisis into a catastrophe.

“It is critical to act now to rebuild food security on a new and lasting basis. Failure to do so means sleepwalking into the catastrophic and systematic food crises of the future.” 

The GHI, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and German charity Welthungerhilfe, names nine countries with “alarming” levels of hunger:

  • Chad
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Madagascar
  • Central African Republic
  • Yemen
  • Syria
  • Burundi
  • South Sudan
  • Somalia

When more data becomes available for 2022, it is “highly possible” that one or more countries could move into the “extremely alarming” category.

Climate change, as well as an atmospheric phenomenon called La Niña, has contributed to severe rainfall shortages since late 2020 in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Those three countries are experiencing one of the most severe droughts of the past 40 years and drought conditions are expected to continue this season, with devastating impacts for herds, crops, water availability and household incomes.

The report says that COP27 – an international convention on climate change taking place in Egypt next month – must deliver on commitments to accelerate transformations to food systems.

Hundreds of millions of people are likely to still not have sufficient access to food in 2030 despite the United Nations’ target to end world hunger by the end of the decade, according to the report. 

However, action can still be taken to prevent the situation from worsening, according to Concern Worldwide’s Head of Advocacy Réiseal Ní Chéilleachair.

The GHI report states that not only must counties respond to escalating humanitarian crises but long-term transformation of food systems is needed to proactively tackle global hunger.

It says that the recent shocks revealed chronic vulnerabilities that will continue to put millions at risk of hunger.

Instead of operating reactively to respond to crises as they emerge, the international  community should take proactive steps follow through on commitments and political attention and funding should be targeted to evidence-based policies and investments.

“While we may not be able to end hunger by [2030], we can stop it heading in the wrong direction,” Ní Chéilleachair said.

She said that the “number of shocks people are experiencing means more effort is needed to increase global food, nutrition and livelihood security”.

“The interdependency of the food system is evident in how shocks in one country can have a direct impact on the purchasing power and food consumption of families in another.” 

The report says it is critical to act now to rebuild food security and that failure to do so means “sleepwalking into the catastrophic and systematic food crises of the future”.

It calls on governments to enable citizens to fully participate in developing and monitoring policies that affect food security and to uphold a legal right to food.

“Much more can be done to ward off the worst impacts of the current crisis and set  deep changes in motion rather than reinforcing the dangerous and  unsustainable arrangements we now live with.”

In an interview with The Journal last week, Irish Ambassador to Italy Patricia O’Brien said that the Covid-19 pandemic had “caused, for a considerable period of time, real stresses on global food security, adding to already very significant concerns in relation to feeding people in various vulnerable parts of the world”.

The ambassador desribed how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as other conflicts and the climate crisis, had brought food security into further focus for the diplomatic team in Rome.

She said that the importance of fertiliser supply is sometimes underestimated but that the “significance of it for global food security is enormous”.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel