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Amid other crises, we must not forget global hunger

Dr. Harrison Mwilima
Harrison Mwilima
October 13, 2022

After decades of global hunger reduction, progress has nearly come to a halt. Reflecting on other global challenges, Harrison Mwilima hopes that those who are facing food shortages are not forgotten.

A World Food Program delivery in Afghanistan
Progress to eradicate global hunger has flatlined, leaving millions at risk.Image: Javed Tanveer/AFP/Getty Images

Progress in tackling global hunger has largely stagnated in 2022, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), which measures and tracks hunger at global, regional, and national level.

According to the GHI, the war in Ukraine has further increased global food, fuel and fertilizer prices, and has the potential to contribute to food shortages in 2023 and beyond. The effects of the war compound three key drivers of hunger - climate change, violent conflict and economic downturns, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on 2022 GHI scores, hunger is at alarming levels in five countries — Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, and Yemen— and is provisionally considered alarming in four additional countries— Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria. In a further 35 countries, hunger is considered serious.

Comparing different regions of the world, the GHI describes how the prevalence of undernourishment and rate of child mortality are higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in any other region of the world.

All this is currently happening when the world, or at least western countries, are occupied with other overlapping global crises.

Different problems but connected

When following the media in Germany and other European countries, it becomes apparent that many people and politicians are concerned with a wide range of overlapping crises: inflation, high energy, potential winter blackouts, slowing economic growth, the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic.

While all those problems are serious and need to be tackled, the GHI reminds us to also appreciate what we have when compared to people in other parts of the world who lack when it comes to that most basic need: food.

Kommentarbild | Dr. Harrison Mwilima
Dr. Harrison MwilimaImage: Carolin Seeliger

The  international community as a whole needs to take responsibility for dealing with the hunger. The global north plays a role in creating the food crisis too, through the provision of subsidies to farmers that distort world food market prices and discourage farmers in other parts of the world to focus on food production rather than cash crops. Climate change, a huge driver of hunger, has also been historically caused by richer nations, who maintain high levels of consumption.

We live in such a globalized world that the effects of hunger will have an impact to the global north too. A scarcity of food is likely to be followed by conflicts, and people suffering from hunger will obviously move to find food in other places.

One of the major fears of Europeans is illegal migration from African and Middle Eastern states, and continuing hunger in some parts of those countries is likely to increase outward migration.

Normalizing hunger for some countries?

It's not just governments though, but also individuals in wealthy countries. Where is their indignation at the global hunger crisis? Maybe they have become emotionless towards such pictures showing "small children” looking hungry with tears and flies in their eyes, which have been misused by some aid organizations to raise donations.

Desert in Somalia during drought
Somalia is one the countries most affected by hunger, and has suffered from years of droughtImage: Sally Hayden/ZUMA Wire/IMAGO

Such pictures led to millions of people being unfairly stereotyped, and for some people in the west they might have had a desensitizing effect, so that not so much attention is being given to hunger crises in low-income countries.

Whatever the case, the global hunger crisis is real. It's an ongoing reminder to look beyond our own surroundings and lift our eyes to see that there are many people still suffering and dying from hunger in the world, even though there is more than enough food to feed us all.