RAYMOND, ME — Food insecurity is a growing issue worldwide that worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, the war in Ukraine, and international sanctions. For those in lower-income nations struggling with poverty, food prices can take up as much as 50% of average incomes, with poverty being one of the greatest drivers of home food insecurity. At least 800 million people struggled with food insecurity, according to the World Food Program (WFP) in 2021, and the number is likely to worsen drastically by the end of 2023. The World Bank announced its new response to the food insecurity crisis on March 27, including $12 billion available in project funding to be dispersed and assigned over the next 15 months.
Worsening Food Insecurity
While the World Bank takes on food insecurity, it is important to remember its impact on international markets and how it came to be. Food insecurity is worsening worldwide, as it is all connected to the global economy. At first, one of the problems wreaking havoc on food availability and security was the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic impeded access to food when the pandemic led to mass layoffs worldwide. The poorest homes spend an average of 70% of their income on food. With no income to use, food insecurity skyrocketed for those families.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 200 million individuals worldwide lived with food insecurity. However, after one year of the war in Ukraine, more than 349 million people in 79 countries worldwide are now living with severe food insecurity. After the new figures came out, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and more warned that the most economically vulnerable would be hit hardest by the worsening food insecurity. Exports from Ukraine have halted almost entirely as Russian forces block the exports in their tracks. The blockages forced numerous nations to adopt new export restrictions, which caused unpredictability in food supply worldwide.
The two latest events that have negatively influenced food insecurity have been the war in Ukraine and the consequential sanctions on Russian exports. One of the larger U.S. sanctions is on Russian fertilizer, which farmers use internationally. The sanctions led to price spikes on fertilizer from other sources and have strained the poorer farmers who rely on fertilizer for their production output. Delays or lack of funds for fertilizers cause minimized agricultural yields and decreased income for struggling farmers. The sanctions on Russian fertilizers limit economic development for impoverished farmers, leading to food shortages when farmers do not have enough fertilizer, setting off a painful economic cycle.
However, despite the fact that all the challenges connecting food insecurity were made possible by extreme poverty worldwide, problems of food insecurity and poverty existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food Insecurity and Poverty
Projects through which the World Bank takes on food insecurity, will also have incredible ramifications for impoverished nations. Many of the world’s poorest nations are among the world’s hungriest. Yemen, the Central African Republic, Chad and Somalia are among the poorer and hungriest nations. In these poorer nations, where income averages are low and poverty rates are high, many children and family members experience high levels of wasting and malnutrition. Several of these countries are incredibly food insecure and rely on international aid to feed their citizenry.
The United Nations has the “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” for developing countries. One of these goals is “No Hunger,” while another is “No Extreme Poverty.” The UN hopes to reach these goals by 2030.
Many research projects testing various ways to interpret poverty have found a strong correlation between poverty and food insecurity, regardless of the interpretation method employed. There is no telling if food insecurity drives poverty or if poverty drives food insecurity, but the two are inexorably intertwined.
The World Bank Takes on Food Insecurity with New Projects
As the World Bank takes on food insecurity, it has already announced several projects it aims to partner with and will be funding. With the funding the World Bank will soon release, the great economic institution has announced its approval of funding for no less than eight projects. Some of the already approved projects include a $150 million grant as part of the second phase of the Yemen Food Security Response and Resilience Project and a $300 million project in Bolivia to contribute to increasing food security, market access and adopting climate-smart agricultural practices.
One of the World Bank’s initiatives was to achieve a $30 billion commitment to improve food and nutrition security worldwide. Between April and December 2022, the Bank’s commitment to this goal surpassed the $12 billion mark and the funding continues to amass. About 50% of the funding is for Africa, where food insecurity and poverty are the highest worldwide.
The World Bank’s goal of taking on food insecurity can ease the burden of poorer citizens internationally. The projects the Bank is funding have the potential to lift economic constraints off families and individuals forced to spend more than 50% of their monthly income on food as prices soar. Despite the economic pains and fears, while the World Bank takes on food insecurity, it means only good things for impoverished individuals in great need of economic support.
– Clara Mulvihill