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World Food Day Q3 2022

Still time left for a new game plan against the global hunger crisis

©WFP/Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo

Photo: Farmers in Madagascar are growing sweet potato and have access to micro-insurance to support them through any disasters or lean seasons. Insurance from WFP helps families to buy food, meet their immediate needs and rebuild their lives.

Rein Paulsen

Director, Office of Emergencies and Resilience, FAO

Year after year, the number of acutely food insecure people has risen mercilessly despite increasing humanitarian aid. By treating the symptoms of hunger rather than its causes, we have missed an opportunity to reverse suffering.

Last year, disasters and crises pushed almost 200 million people into high acute hunger – so severe that people require humanitarian assistance to survive – and almost 600,000 experienced famine-like conditions. In other words: starvation and death.

A preventable crisis if we choose

In all countries, rich and poor, Covid-19 has affected everyone. Loved ones died, jobs disappeared, and personal savings eroded.

For those who were already at risk from conflicts, instability and extreme weather events, the war in Ukraine — especially its impacts on food prices and availability — has been the absolute last straw.

At least two out of every three people experiencing hunger extremes are food producers.

Acute food insecurity has reached unprecedented levels around the world. At this moment, there are 50 million people just one step from starvation. Tens of millions more are poised for the same future.

The scale of need is unprecedented and undeniable. Sadly, it is not unexpected. For each of the last five years, levels of acute food insecurity have broken new records. We saw this coming and should have done something differently.

Food producers on the frontlines of hunger

At least two out of every three people experiencing hunger extremes are food producers.

Smallholder farmers produce about one-third of the world’s food and 80% of the food in developing countries. Yet, they go hungry. War, drought, floods, diseases and political and economic turmoil drive them from their land and homes, with little or no safety net.

Still, they are staggeringly resilient. In 2021, with humanitarian and commercial lifelines shut off from Tigray’s farmers, they came together and produced a staggering 900,000 tonnes of cereals — a 40% drop from what they normally produced, but a heroic effort that saved many. 

To fight hunger, grow food

We have the tools to reverse the march of hunger to help people navigate their own recovery, starting from feeding themselves.

Agriculture is poorly funded, receiving less than 8% of all resources dedicated to food security. It’s proven that simple, anticipatory actions that support farmers’ livelihoods result in surprising returns on investment. Just vaccinating a farmer’s sheep produces an average ROI of 65:1.

These actions can transform hunger. So, on this World Food Day, let’s not just “spare a thought,” let’s get to work to build their resilience and a prosperous future for everyone. Doing the same things in the same ways will never give different results.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the FAO

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