Millions in need of help as a food crisis spans across the globeLast Update：2022/02/16
Right now, our world is facing the most severe food crisis in decades.
According to a United Nations report in 2021, due to a mix of the impact of conflict, climate change and an economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is estimated that 811 million people globally, or one in every 10 people, faced hunger in 2020, which represented a staggering increase of 161 million people compared to figures of the previous year. At the same time, at least 45 million people were deemed as being on the brink of famine, a number that is 1.6 times higher than that of 2019.
Years of progress undone by two years of global pandemic
While some may question why the issue of hunger has yet to be solved after all these years, the fact is that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people facing hunger had been in decline thanks to global efforts. Sadly, this progress was undone by a pandemic. As prevention measures were imposed, farmers, who are at the heart of global food supply, were forced to stay at home and had their income source cut off, leading to a severe hit on the global food supply chain. A recent example of this was when cross-border truck drivers tested positive, food supply to Hong Kong was immediately limited, and food prices skyrocketed as citizens bought in panic. Similar scenes have been taking place for two years around the world. The pandemic has caused unemployment rate to soar. As people’s affordability drops, prices are going further up due to increased costs, aggravating hunger. Another reason for the worsening trend is that before the pandemic, children in many developing countries depended on school meals. With schools suspended, they were forced to stay at home, but their parents simply were unable to provide enough food to feed them.
Children are the first to suffer as food insecurity worsens
Children living in countries that experience food insecurity are particularly prone to malnutrition, and prolonged malnutrition may lead to stunting. Currently, one in every five children under the age of five, or as many as 149 million, suffer from stunting, which indicates the severity of child malnutrition. In fact, malnutrition has a major impact on children’s physical and psychological development, and is one of the main underlying causes of preventable deaths among children under five.
Food insecurity affects the whole world, and no region has been spared. Even in Hong Kong, the poor are also facing hunger due to economic and livelihood impact. Through the Share and Care Scheme, World Vision is providing support for them. In other parts of the world, farmers and pastoralists are especially affected, with the effects of climate change, conflict and socialising limits causing them to starve, to sell their belongings and even marrying off a young daughter in exchange of dowry, or withdrawing a child from school to work as child labour. Falling into the vicious cycle of poverty will permanently impact a child physically, mentally and spiritually. They need all the help they can get from the world.
According to a recent report by the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2022, 20 vulnerable countries in the world are likely to face a deterioration of acute food insecurity and need international assistance to turn things around. They include the following four countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Northwestern Afghanistan has been experiencing drought for several years in a row. Many children are severely affected and have become malnourished due to prolonged starvation.
Even though active conflict has reduced since the transition of power in August 2021, 97% of Afghanistan’s population is projected to fall below the poverty line due to the economic crisis. This, combined with the drought caused by La Niña, is leading to an unprecedented food crisis. It is estimated that, by March 2022, over 55% of Afghanistan’s population, or at least 22.8 million people, will be experiencing severe food insecurity, with 8.7 million expected to slide into emergency level of acute food insecurity, or Phase 4 on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which is more than double the number from the same time last year. If timely and sufficient assistance is not made available, it is feared that many will experience famine or even death.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
While conflict in the eastern part of the country continues, tens of thousands of people have become displaced and lost their livelihoods, forcing them to live on food distributed by World Vision and other humanitarian agencies.
As DRC, a country in central Africa, experiences years of instability, a quarter of its population, or over 25 million people, now face severe levels of acute food insecurity, with 5.4 million of them facing what is classified as “emergency” on the IPC scale. As conflict in the eastern provinces continues, international trade and other livelihood activities have been hampered, while the whole country’s economy suffers the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This all but means that the hunger situation has been made even more challenging.
Last year, when this child was yet to be a year old, she had already suffered three relapses of malnutrition.
In east Africa, South Sudan has experienced record-breaking floods in three consecutive years, causing crops to fail, livestock to die in mass and food prices to soar. According to estimates, as a result of scarcity of food and persistent regional conflict, 60% of the nation’s population, or about 7.2 million people, will face a severe food crisis by April this year. 108,000 of them are expected to experience famine (IPC Phase 5) level of food insecurity, and the situation is likely to further deteriorate.
Parents are heartbroken and helpless as they witness their children become feeble due to a lack of food.
Somalia, another country in east Africa, is also threatened by conflict and climate change. For several rainy seasons in a row, the country has been experiencing inadequate rainfall, which, combined with the incessant risks of drought and desert locusts, results in very poor harvests, loss of livestock and displacement of poor population, causing even greater intercommunal conflicts and forming a vicious cycle. Food prices in some regions are now at a historical height, as 22% of the country’s population, or 3.5 million people, faces severe levels of acute food insecurity, while over 1.2 million people are malnourished.
You can help make a difference
The situation may look bleak, but we can work together to turn the tide. With decades of experience in relief responses, and long-term partnerships with the World Food Programme and other local organisations, World Vision is capable of efficiently bringing food to the hands of those in need. But we need your participation.
By pooling the donations raised worldwide, last year World Vision was able to partner with WFP to reach 11.5 million people with food and cash assistance. We also provided supplementary feeding for over 684,000 children under five and 173,000 pregnant and lactating women. Moreover, over 90,000 children with wasting received treatment and 89% of them made a full recovery. This year, we will continue to do the following:
- Distribute emergency food* and cash assistance to affected families
- Provide livelihood assistance to help families recover
- Provide treatment and therapeutic food for malnourished children and offer primary healthcare support for communities
- Provide clean water for communities to maintain good hygiene and prevent diseases
- Protect children and women and provide psychosocial support
* World Vision partners with World Food Programme to distribute food aid in Afghanistan, DRC, South Sudan and Somalia.