Global food security is deteriorating. Rising food and energy prices, conflict and the affects of climate change are all magnifying hunger and malnutrition worldwide.
In 2022, approximately 45 million people in 37 countries were projected to have so little to eat that they would be classified as severely malnourished—at risk of death or already facing starvation and death. The food crisis has tightened its grip on 19 “hunger hotspots”, including the world’s hardest-to-reach and fragile countries that need humanitarian support—countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
Approximately nine million people die every year of hunger and hunger-related diseases, more than the deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Over three million of those deaths are children under five. That’s nearly half of all deaths in children under age five.
The vulnerability of agriculture to natural hazards and disasters is a major driver of food insecurity and hunger. Between 2008 and 2018, crop and livestock production decline were estimated at approximately US$116.7 billion. Over that period, Asia was the hardest hit region, followed by Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Women and girls continue to be most affected by food insecurity. Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty, with an estimated 60 per cent of chronically hungry people being women and girls. Between 2018 and 2021, the number of hungry women compared to hungry men grew 8.4 times. These disparities have long-term negative implications on young women’s growth and cognitive development.
High levels of income inequality and food costs put consuming a healthy diet out of reach for approximately three billion people in 2019, particularly the poor. That number is now expected to have increased— according to FAO’s Food Price Index, global food prices were 31.4 per cent higher in October 2021 compared to October 2020, and rose as much as 14.3 per cent between 2021 and 2022.
Large-scale food and nutrition crises can and should be a thing of the past—to make this a reality, we need strong collective leadership, political will and the right financing, with short-term emergency responses and longer-term commitments that address the underlying issues driving hunger. These efforts must all support human rights, peaceful resolutions to conflict and the gender-responsive transformation of food systems to become inclusive, sustainable and more resilient.