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Better prevention and targeting of root causes needed to combat food crises

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A five-year-old girl eats corn for lunch in Madagascar. Her mother is a farmer and feeds her family with what she can produce, despite drought and insects.

The number of people facing acute food insecurity, requiring urgent life-saving food assistance and livelihood support, continues to grow at an alarming rate, according to a joint UN report released on Wednesday.
 

“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels and the global situation just keeps on getting worse,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). 

The annual report from the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) – an international alliance of the UN, European Union (EU), governmental and non-governmental agencies – shines a light on the urgency of tackling root causes rather than just responding to emergencies after the fact.

“Conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and surging food and fuel costs have created a perfect storm,” said Mr. Beasley.

“Millions of people in dozens of countries are being driven to the edge of starvation,” he added appealing for “urgently need emergency funding to pull them back from the brink and turn this global crisis around before it’s too late”. 

Ukraine repercussions

While the analysis predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the report finds that the war has already exposed the interconnected nature and fragility of global food systems, with serious consequences for global food and nutrition security.

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Countries already coping with high levels of acute hunger are particularly vulnerable to the risks created by the war in Eastern Europe, notably due to their high dependency on imports of food and agricultural inputs and vulnerability to global food price shocks, notes the report. 

“The tragic link between conflict and food insecurity is once again evident and alarming,” said Mr. QU.

“While the international community has courageously stepped up to the calls for urgent famine prevention and mitigation action, resource mobilization to efficiently tackle the root causes of food crises due to, among others, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, global hotspots and the war in Ukraine, still struggles to match the growing needs”.

A paradigm shift 

The report’s findings demonstrate the need for a greater prioritization of smallholder agriculture as a frontline humanitarian response.

Furthermore, it advocates for promoting structural changes to current external financing, to reduce humanitarian assistance over time through longer-term development investments, which can help tackle the root causes of hunger.

In parallel, humanitarian assistance must be provided more efficiently and sustainably. 

“The situation calls out for at-scale action to move towards integrated approaches to prevention, anticipation, and better targeting to sustainably address the root causes of food crises, including structural rural poverty, marginalization, population growth and fragile food systems,” said the Global Network founding members, in a joint statement with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank.

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