The first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a stark reminder of the conflict’s devastating impact on Ukraine and far beyond. Globally, the war has caused shortages of exported grains and cooking oils, as well as the fuel and fertilizer used to grow food locally in many parts of the world. Rising prices also are making it more costly for humanitarian groups to get aid to those in need.
How is the global community responding to these rising needs? The Action Against Hunger 2023 Hunger Gap Funding report sheds light on this urgent question.
The report revealed that there is a shocking 53 percent gap in hunger funding for countries facing “crisis” levels of hunger – or worse. In fact, only 3 percent of hunger programs were fully funded. Most (65 percent) hunger programs were not even funded to the halfway point.
To develop the report, we selected 13 countries that were experiencing “crisis” levels of malnutrition or worse, meaning they were categorized as phase three or higher in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. The countries included Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
We then analyzed subsequent funding for hunger-related programs through the UN OCHA Financial Tracking system. We determined the funding these countries received and calculated the gap between the respective countries’ needs and the global funding response. The results are alarming.
Despite a slight rise in hunger funding in 2022, growing food insecurity meant Support was spread even thinner than before. Although some donors, most notably the U.S. Government, gave more, it didn’t keep pace with the number of people facing a hunger crisis, which rose by 18 percent. The report was released at a time when approximately 828 million people—one in ten worldwide—are undernourished, and as many as 50 million are on the brink of famine.
The critical food insecurity has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. As grain became more limited and prices rose, many find themselves unable to afford even the most basic necessities. Hunger is preventable.
Among places we analyzed, no country in the Horn of Africa had UN appeals for hunger funding fully met in 2022, even though a growing number of people in the region face the likelihood of a sixth failed rainy season. The area faces the worst drought in 40 years, which has skyrocketed food and fuel prices and left families in urgent need of food assistance.
Somalia’s population is especially at risk. The drought killed an estimated three million livestock, forcing more than one million people to flee their homes in search of food and water. Action Against Hunger treated 253 percent more malnourished children in the first half of 2022 than in all of 2021.
“With food increasingly hard to find and impossible to afford, more parents face the impossible choice of which child gets to eat and which might die. The world has enough food for everyone. Now, we need the will to act,” said Ahmed Khalif, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in Somalia. “The situation will only worsen without significant additional humanitarian assistance, but that has been far too slow to arrive.”
Our analysis revealed the “hungriest” countries (those facing the highest levels of malnutrition) received less Support than those with lower hunger rates. For example, the report’s dataset highlights Haiti as one of the most severely deprived countries. Unprecedented levels of violence, years of political instability, and recurring natural disasters have bankrupted the small nation, where 45 percent of the population faces crisis levels of hunger. Despite Haiti’s overwhelming need, its hunger appeals were filled 32 percent less often than the countries in our data set that were the most food secure.
Afghanistan faces a similar crisis. Decades of conflict, the climate crisis, and chronic inequality have left more than half of the population food insecure. The Taliban’s return to power has disrupted humanitarian activity in the region, making a bad situation worse.
Countries dealing with skyrocketing hunger levels urgently need both emergency assistance and long-term programming to prevent future insecurity. Immediate responses are necessary but seldom enough to foster long-term resilience for families, communities, and countries. In this balance, the global community must address the underlying chronic inequality that drives millions into hunger when faced with inflation, climate shocks, and other stressors.
The report reveals the long shadow hunger casts on nations’ ability to advance other priorities, including political stability and long-term economic growth. Hunger is both a consequence and cause of conflict—chronic hunger in children leads to stunting or impaired growth in children, which typically impacts emotional and cognitive development, often permanently. Affected children have lower earnings later in life, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and, ultimately, the hunger crisis.
Despite the severe lack of funding, the world has enough resources to meet the UN’s Global Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. Hunger is preventable and treatable. It would take four billion dollars to fully fund the hunger-related appeals of the 13 countries in the 2023 report. That’s roughly equivalent to ¼ of what the American public bet on the Super Bowl.
We’ve reached a critical crossroads for the global community. We have an opportunity to prioritize the needs of those most affected by hunger and to work together to create sustainable solutions that can uplift entire communities. In highlighting the significant imbalance in food access and funding, we hope the Hunger Funding Gap report urges the global community to act with bold and decisive measures to end patterns of inequality and create a more peaceful world.
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