Mercy Corps: Deteriorating Hunger Hotspots Illustrate a Spiraling Global Food Crisis

July 12, 2023

Annual United Nations food security and nutrition report reveals that nearly 30% of the global population faced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2022

Following today’s release of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2023 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, Mercy Corps warns that the global food crisis is spiraling out of control in hunger hotspots grappling with conflict, climate change, inflation, shortages and unaffordable food prices. The report reveals that an estimated 691 to 783 million people experienced hunger in 2022, an increase of 122 million compared to 2019. 

FAO projects that by 2030, approximately 600 million people will face chronic undernourishment. This figure represents an alarming increase of 119 million compared to previous projections, taking into account the impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Even without the war in Ukraine, the number would still be 23 million higher than earlier estimates. 

For the first time, the report provides comprehensive analysis on the adverse impacts of the war in Ukraine on global food security. Ukraine and Russia, major contributors to global production and trade of fuel, fertilizer, and essential food commodities like wheat, maize, and sunflower oil, have experienced disruptions in agricultural production and trade within the Black Sea region. Consequently, the first half of 2022 witnessed an unprecedented surge in international food prices. Although global food prices have since decreased, thanks in part to initiatives like the Black Sea Grain Initiative, up for renewal next week, food prices are still above 2021 levels and are expected to remain at above historical-average rates. The war continues to affect food security globally, and particularly in low-income countries like Lebanon and Somalia that are heavily reliant on food imports.

Mercy Corps Food Systems Director, Kevin Mugenya, says:

"If last year's report showed that the world was moving in the wrong direction to address hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition, the FAO's 2023 report demonstrates that we have completely veered off course. The global food crisis is deteriorating rapidly, leaving countries utterly incapable of feeding their own populations.

"The pandemic drove 70 million more people into extreme poverty before the war in Ukraine further exacerbated the challenge of buying or growing food. Many families are now unable to afford a diverse range of food due to soaring prices caused by the shortage of Russian and Ukrainian exports, particularly fertilizers, as well as the increase in fuel costs that have severely impacted transport and production.

"The rain we celebrated two months ago in the Horn of Africa has vanished. Families are increasingly reliant on purchasing food because they are either slowly resuming  planting, or because they were forced to leave their farmlands after several consecutive failed rainy seasons. As prices continue to fluctuate, they struggle to buy even a minimal amount of nutritious food. This is sure to worsen in countries with only one planting opportunity, like Sudan, where the number of people requiring food assistance is expected to rise by one million people every week that violence continues. The conflict there has prevented farmers from cultivating their lands and we expect climate shocks in the coming months – from drought to flooding – will further jeopardize any potential agricultural production. 

"Our Mercy Corps teams see every day the disproportionate impact deteriorating food insecurity has on women, children and people living in rural areas. We are especially worried about escalating malnutrition rates among an entire generation of children who, in the next 10 to 15 years, won't be able to reach a basic level of education or literacy. In 2022, the report estimates that almost 150 million children under five experienced stunted growth. We also risk undoing all the progress made by women in the past two decades. Increases in poverty in both rural and urban areas significantly limit women’s opportunities beyond subsistence farming or low-wage manual labor.”

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