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Why is World Hunger Day still relevant in 2023? Because people are still dying every day from hunger.
Despite promises made by world leaders to tackle world hunger and meet the Sustainable Development Goals’ agenda by 2030, more than 800 million people are experiencing extreme hunger, a third of all food is wasted and lives are lost every day. Every year, World Hunger Day reminds us that food insecurity and famine persists despite being preventable, on the condition that political leaders make the decision to invest in sustainable solutions.
1. A historical hunger crisis
According to the 2023 Global Report on Food Crisis, 258 million people in 58 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity at crisis levels or worse in 2022. This number is still growing at an alarming speed. Economic shocks, conflicts and weather extremes driven by climate change continue to accelerate major food crises, and there is no indication that these drivers will ease in 2023. Climate change, conflict and economic shocks also mean the cost of food and fertilisers has increased dramatically. The impacts are intensified by deep-rooted underlying issues affecting Fragile and Conflict Affected Contexts (FCAC) such as poor infrastructure, high inequality and chronic poverty leading to accelerating levels of extreme hunger and malnutrition.
The long-term and increasingly forgotten economic and social impacts of Covid-19, the conflict in Ukraine and crises in FCAC have created additional challenges, rising national debt and a global cost of living crisis, making it increasingly difficult for countries to respond. In East Africa alone, three years of drought across the region has led to catastrophic consequences on the population’s crops, livestock and livelihoods. Over 22 million people are now estimated to be acutely food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
2. Hunger and famine: a lack of political will… or a decision?
Hunger and famine is preventable through political will and financial support. This month, leaders of some of the world’s richest nations have convened at several events to discuss solutions to global hunger. The G7 Summit involved leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, meeting to discuss solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing the international community including world hunger and food insecurity.
The Horn of Africa pledging conference co-hosted by the FCDO involved leaders discussing solutions to support the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa. Whilst both events covered the need for emergency support and sustainable solutions to the East Africa Hunger crisis, they have not pledged the long-term sustainable commitments needed to alleviate immediate effects of the current crisis and prevent future ones. This disappointing outcome from the UK Government follows drastic cuts to the UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget, which means that the essential support needed to respond to the hunger crisis is not being provided. From 2013 to 2020, the budget allocated to UK ODA was 0.7% of the UK Gross National Income (GNI) and reduced to 0.5% in 2021, which considerably limits the scale of humanitarian interventions.
Increasing the level of financing for the needed humanitarian interventions depends on political will to unlock funding where it can be found, specifically through tax reforms. In 2022, the richest 1% globally accumulated nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion, whilst 95 food and energy corporations more than doubled their profits, paying out 84% of this profit to their shareholders, as revealed by Oxfam’s report Survival of the Richest. The long-standing, growing and immoral hunger crisis can be ended and indeed prevented in the future, if the choice is made to end hunger once and for all. Global hunger is not because there is not enough food or enough money. It is a matter of will. Rich nations could choose to leverage additional financial resources through wealth taxes, and remove tax exemptions that perpetuate global inequalities and poverty. Inequalities that play out in the United Kingdom also. Hunger is not confined to the world’s poorest countries. It is increasingly a global problem.
World leaders have consistently been made aware of the rise of the global hunger crisis over the past years. Calls from the international community, including the UN, urge political leaders to provide sufficient funding to prevent future crises from occurring and to provide immediate humanitarian response. There are evidence that funding prevention provides sustainable outcomes long-term, especially on livelihood, education, health and nutrition. At Concern, we have raised the alarm, and asked the UK Government to step up and prevent the hunger crisis from escalating. Yet again, G7 countries, including the UK, are not committing enough to end the global hunger crisis. Is this then a lack of political will, or a decision?
Food crises are global
There is no doubt, the hunger crisis is global because food systems are broken. Food systems include all actors actions involved in the production, storage, transport, disposal and consumption of food. The consequences of poor governance of food systems are visible everywhere, from the UK cost of living crisis, where a weekly food shop in the UK is rising at the fastest annual rate since 1977, to the most extreme conditions in fragile and conflict affected countries.
There are solutions to transforming food systems and ensuring that populations are not only food secure, but also have their nutrition needs met. The UN has called for a profound transformation of food systems, to end inequities, violence and a system that perpetuates the cycle of poverty, to lay the foundation of new systems based on human rights, dignity and justice. In the Global Hunger Index Report 2022, Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe made three core recommendations towards more resilient, inclusive and nutritive food systems that will put an end to hunger and malnutrition for the long -term:
- Putting inclusive governance and accountability at the centre of efforts to transform food systems.
- Ensuring citizen participation, action, and oversight, and consider the local context.
- Scale up resources to address pressing humanitarian needs, while transforming food systems to make them resilient to shocks.
This World Hunger Day, we call on political leaders to make the choice to end the cycle of hunger crises and to prioritise people’s rights to adequate food, through substantial finances for immediate humanitarian needs and long-term food system resilience globally. This is the only sustainable future for us all.
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