BELMONT, North Carolina — In 2022, about 50 million people across 45 different countries stand at the brink of famine as the looming global food crisis threatens to upend the food security gains accomplished over the past two decades. More than 800 million people go to sleep each night experiencing hunger, the World Food Program (WFP) reports. Of this number, 345 million individuals endure acute food insecurity, meaning that their lack of food access poses an immediate threat to their life or livelihood, the Food and Agriculture Organization says. The United Nations developed the WFP in 1961 specifically to deal with global disasters related to famine. As “the world’s largest humanitarian organization focused on hunger,” the WFP’s emergency response to the global food crisis is well-equipped to address the food crisis.
The WFP Global Report 2022
The protracted conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated global hunger levels, which were already on the rise in 2021 due to the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conflict has had widespread repercussions on the global food supply as the Black Sea region is a major producer of agricultural commodities. Disruptions related to the conflict have pushed another “50 million people into severe hunger in 2022,” Al Jazeera reports. Globally, an additional 19 million individuals could endure chronic undernourishment in 2023 as inflation soars due to strains on the global supply chain.
While food price inflation will affect people in every nation, impoverished populations in developing nations are expected to be hit the hardest. Food costs typically take up about 50% of an average household’s budget in many developing nations. Therefore, impoverished populations will be forced to forego their “productive assets,” decrease their food consumption rates and remove their children from educational facilities. These sacrifices will plunge countless individuals into poverty, reversing years of poverty-reducing progress. The World Bank projects that, as a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine, as many as 95 million people could endure extreme poverty in 2022.
The WFP’s emergency response to the global food crisis aims to mitigate the devastating effects of the oncoming food crisis in order to maintain hard-won international standards for social development and to reduce social and political instability in vulnerable regions.
The WFP’s Emergency Response Overview
In 2021, the WFP was able to support a record-breaking 128 million people facing hunger. To meet the rising need for food assistance worldwide, the WFP plans to support 151.6 million individuals in 2022. The fiscal demands of this goal translate into an “annual operational requirement” of $22.2 billion. However, as of June 2022, the seven wealthiest countries in the world have only pledged a total of $4.5 billion to address global food insecurity.
Closing the funding gap is crucial, as is the implementation of long-term solutions that will end people’s dependence on humanitarian support. This is why many NGOs and activist networks are calling on the world’s leaders to invest in the WFP’s plan, which funds sustainable, locally-led solutions. It is important that moving forward, the global community invests in the populations most vulnerable to food insecurity by providing them with avenues toward self-sustainability.
WFP Outstanding Initiatives
The WFP is actively working to improve “the lives of more than 115.5 million people in [more than]120 countries and territories,” its website says. Much of the WFP’s work deals with emergency assistance, providing humanitarian aid to populations in distress. The WFP leverages its longstanding partnerships and international prestige to seek out and invest in sustainable development, helping governments adopt long-lasting food management solutions. This works to bolster vulnerable populations against future drivers of food insecurity.
- Emergency Response. The WFP is a frontline NGO, responding to global emergencies with humanitarian aid and essential services. On a daily basis, the WFP deploys “5,600 trucks, 30 ships and 100 planes” to deliver WFP assistance to those in crisis situations. Much of this aid is directed toward regions with the highest concentration of need, which are referred to as emergencies. As of September 2022, WFP is currently grappling with food emergencies in several countries, many of which are in conflict-ridden nations.
- Supporting Farmers. Smallholder farmers produce 80% of the global food supply, however, they also often endure food insecurity. Supporting smallholder farmers is key to achieving “a zero-hunger world” and building a sustainable global food system. The WFP is supporting smallholder farmers in a variety of ways, whether that be building climate resilience, providing business skills training or expanding market access. These programs also enable national governments to design and adopt policies that will further uphold the interests and needs of smallholder farmers, thus bolstering value chains and national food supplies.
- Building Resilience. In 2021 alone, the WFP provided climate resilience solutions to 12.2 million people across 47 countries via “forecast-based financing.” These solutions include establishing “irrigation systems, beekeeping apiaries, chicken coups, fishponds, rainwater harvesting dams and providing farmers with seeds and mechanized farm tools.” The WFP’s emergency response to the global food crisis will continue expanding pre-emptive climate initiatives as extreme weather events remain a key driver of global hunger rates.
A Final Overview
The burgeoning food crisis will affect populations across the globe, with the most vulnerable regions facing record-high levels of hunger. The WFP’s versatile structure allows it to provide life-saving emergency assistance to the world’s hungriest regions while simultaneously supporting programs that build food resilience. The resilience programs work to end community dependence on humanitarian aid, opening up avenues toward further social and economic development.
The WFP’s work is important for a multitude of reasons, and the impact of food-resilience programs is difficult to overstate. Food insecurity is a major driver of regional insecurity and conflict as violence escalates when a population’s basic needs are unmet. Elevated levels of hunger are often associated with elevated levels of migration, which can contribute to the dispersion of instability and violence across borders. Thus, the WFP’s work is important to maintaining social and political stability globally.
– Mollie Lund
Photo: Wikimedia Commons