UNITED NATIONS: World hunger rose in 2021, with around 2.3 billion people facing moderate or severe difficulty obtaining enough to eat -- and that was before the Ukraine war, which has sparked increases in the cost of grain, fertilizer and energy, according to a UN report released on Wednesday.
“The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” paints a grim picture, based on 2021 data, saying the statistics “should dispel any lingering doubts that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.”
“The most recent evidence available suggests that the number of people unable to afford a healthy diet around the world rose by 112 million to almost 3.1 billion, reflecting the impacts of rising consumer food prices during the (Covid-19) pandemic,” the heads of five UN agencies that published the report said in the forward.
They warned that the war in Ukraine, which began on Feb 24, “is disrupting supply chains and further affecting prices of grain, fertilizer and energy” resulting in more price increases in the first half of 2022. At the same time, they said, more frequent and extreme climate events are also disrupting supply chains, especially in low-income countries.
Ukraine and Russia together produced almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia and its ally Belarus are the world’s No 2 and 3 producers of potash, a key ingredient of fertilizer.
“The global price spikes in food, fuel and fertilizers that we are seeing as a result of the crisis in Ukraine threatened to push countries around the world into famine,” World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley said at a UN event launching the report. “The result will be global destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale.”
He said in an online briefing that WFP’s latest analysis reveals that “a record 345 million acutely hungry people are marching to the brink of starvation,” and “a staggering 50 million people in 45 countries are just one step away from famine.”
There’s a real danger that the number of people facing famine will rise in the coming months, Beasley said, urging world leaders “to act today to avert this looming catastrophe.” According to the report, of the estimated 2.3 billion people who were moderately or severely “food insecure” in 2021, the number facing severe food insecurity rose to about 924 million.