More than a quarter of a billion people faced severe famine in 2022

A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment with limited resources at the Malnutrition Department of Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen on December 13, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment with limited resources at the Malnutrition Department of Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen on December 13, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

More than 258 million people in 58 countries faced severe famine in 2022, the highest rate of food insecurity in seven years, according to a new report led by the United Nations. The fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine, local conflicts, climate change and the economic impacts of COVID-19 – including high inflation, according to the report – have been major drivers of hunger.

Yet despite these challenges, many critics argue that food insecurity on this scale is largely preventable.

“Organizations and others in power have been sounding the alarm for years because this latest hunger crisis is part of a long and preventable cycle,” Emily Farr, food and economic security manager for Oxfam, a global organization that focuses on alleviating global poverty, told Yahoo News. “But the international community doesn’t seem to be heeding these warnings and taking responsibility until a real disaster strikes, and even then it’s still not enough.”

A peak of hunger

The , which published its findings last month, found that last year the number of hungry people around the world increased by 33% compared to the previous year, compared to 193 million people in 53 countries and territories in 2021. This was also the fourth consecutive year. year in which an increasing number of people experienced Phase 3 or higher food insecurity, which designates their situation as severe, according to the IPC, a tool for improving food security analysis and decision-making .

Elderly women attend a village meeting on malnutrition in Rupa, Karamoja region, Uganda on May 23, 2022. (Photo by BADRU KATUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Elderly women attend a village meeting on malnutrition in Rupa, Karamoja region, Uganda on May 23, 2022. (Photo by BADRU KATUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Acute food insecurity means people are in dire need of food, nutrition and livelihood assistance. The report’s authors say competing priorities with crises around the world often leave resources stretched, leading to problems like hunger, especially in the poorest countries, which are becoming increasingly more serious over time.

“Funding is so stretched relative to need that we have to make tough decisions about who gets food and who doesn’t get food with the limited funding we have,” Rebecca Richards, Head of the Global Food Crises Network , which produces the report, , an independent news agency covering global development.

According to the report, which was commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Food Programme, the World Bank, the European Union, the United States and members of the Global Network Against food crises, around 40% of the population in IPC phase 3 or above – around 108 million people – resided in just five countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen.

People in seven countries – Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – faced famine at some point last year.

Dr Manenji Mangundu, OxFam’s country director for South Sudan, told Yahoo News that hunger was so severe in the region that girls as young as 11 were being forced into marriage so their families would receive an income. of the exchange. Mangundu called the situation “alarming” as funding alone could solve many problems.

“It can be avoided because these are negative coping mechanisms that they adopt,” he said.

Causes of the food crisis

The report cites “interconnected and mutually reinforcing factors” for the increase in world hunger, the most important factor being the economic shocks resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine, which is . Somalia alone imports around 90% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and the war has driven up prices there considerably. The fallout from the war, further exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, has led to severe famine in 27 countries, covering 84 million people.

People affected by eight years of war and blockade receive free meals provided by a charity kitchen in the Mseek region on March 23, 2022 in Sana'a, Yemen.  (Photo by Mohammad Hamoud/Getty Images)

People affected by eight years of war and blockade receive free meals provided by a charity kitchen in the Mseek area on March 23, 2022 in Sana’a, Yemen. (Photo by Mohammad Hamoud/Getty Images)

The second most important factor was climate change, which affected 117 million people in 19 countries/territories, followed by local conflicts, which affected 57 million people in 12 countries.

UN Secretary General António Guterres called the report’s findings “inadmissible”.

“This [report] is a scathing condemnation of humanity’s failure to make progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 to end hunger and achieve food security and better nutrition for all,” Guterres wrote in the foreword. of the report.

Families, mostly women and children at Kahda IDP camp near Mogadishu.  Most young children arrive with severe malnutrition and some die.  June 20, 2022 in Kahda, Mogadishu, Somalia.  (Photo by: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images)

Families, mostly women and children at Kahda IDP camp near Mogadishu. Most young children arrive with severe malnutrition and some die. June 20, 2022 in Kahda, Mogadishu, Somalia. (Photo by: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images)

Nowhere is the inability to respond to the growing crisis more evident than in sub-Saharan Africa where the locals – who are fishers, herders and farmers who depend on agriculture – have found it nearly impossible to survive. After being on the wane for the past two years due to multi-year droughts fueled by climate change in the region, millions of people have abandoned their homes in search of food and pasture for animals. In dire circumstances, adults go days without food instead of feeding their children and animals, and education has become an afterthought for many communities, which will have a lasting impact.

In many of these regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, young children have also borne the brunt of the crisis. More than 35 million children under the age of five suffered from wasting or acute malnutrition, also defined as low weight-for-height, including 9.2 million of them suffering from severe wasting, the most severe form. undernutrition and a major factor in infant mortality.

Projections and solutions for 2023

The report predicts that up to 153.3 million people in the analyzed population will experience high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023. To tackle extreme hunger, experts are urging the international community to act early and often to avert further disasters, which includes educating regions on how to adapt to the impact of climate change on their food production, learning how to invest their income and supporting peace initiatives. They also point to the need to tackle the drivers of food insecurity, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, which in turn could help avoid the cycle of fundraising to try to solve an already spiraling problem.

“Addressing hunger can seem overwhelming, but we know what works to meet people’s immediate needs and get communities back on track for the future,” Farr said. “We need to get food and cash to people in need now, to help them protect and recover their livelihoods…and once we’ve averted the worst, we need to work with communities to prevent it from happening again.”

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