CLIMATE WIRE | LONDON — More than 250 million people went hungry last year, with people in seven countries on the brink of starvation, according to a United Nations report released on Wednesday.
The fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine, including high food prices, has been the main driver of hunger, especially in the world’s poorest countries, which have still not recovered from the economic shocks unleashed. by Covid-19. Conflicts have been another key driver, along with climate change and extreme weather events.
Some 258 million people in 58 countries or territories faced crisis or acute food insecurity levels in 2022 – a sharp increase from 193 million in 2021, according to the report.
Last year was the fourth year in a row that the number of people in urgent need of food aid rose, according to the ‘Global Report on Food Crises’, released by the UN Food Organization on Wednesday. and agriculture, the World Food Programme, the World Bank, the European Union, the United States, and members of the Global Network Against Food Crises.
“The latest figures on the global situation of acute food insecurity paint a very worrying picture. They tell us that now, for four consecutive reports, four consecutive years, we have a worsening situation,” said Rein Paulsen, director of FAO’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience.
Acute food insecurity is hunger that puts people’s livelihoods and lives in immediate danger and threatens to escalate into famine and large-scale death.
About 376,000 people in seven countries – Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – face “catastrophic” food security conditions, which according to the International Food Security Ranking System , is the last stage before starvation, the report says.
Conflict was the main cause of hunger in 19 countries, it says, while extreme weather and climate conditions were the main driver of acute food insecurity for 57 million people in 12 countries, including Pakistan, where devastating floods destroyed crops and left millions without food last year. .
War and plague
However, the main cause of the rise in food insecurity last year has been economic shocks resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine and the residual impacts of Covid-19. The fallout from these has been the main driver of acute hunger in 27 countries, affecting 84 million people.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia – one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower – in February 2022 shook up global trade in these products, as well as fertilizers, sending prices skyrocketing. food prices.
Price pressure has eased since a deal allowing Ukrainian grain exports to safely bypass Russian blockades in the Black Sea was brokered by the UN and Turkey last July. But war continues to indirectly affect food security, especially in poor import-dependent countries, the report warns.
Russia is also threatening to abandon the Black Sea grains deal when an extension agreed in March runs out on May 18. This could see prices skyrocket once again, pushing millions into starvation.
The report is a red flag, according to Paulsen. It is “of vital importance because it informs decision-makers, it informs donors, it informs operational agencies and governments of the need for urgent action, for action on a larger scale and for the right kind of action to deal with the situation,” he said.
What is needed, Paulsen added, is a shift away from food aid by air towards agricultural interventions, which “have proven to be the most cost-effective way to respond to acute food insecurity.”
“Globally, we know that only 4% of all funding that goes to food security interventions in food crisis contexts, in the contexts covered in this report, goes to urgent agricultural interventions,” he said. he declares. “That’s something that needs to change if we’re really to move the needle on the trend of deteriorating numbers in those numbers that exist.”
This story first appeared in POLITICO Europe.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential information for energy and environmental professionals.