ROME (AP) — The United Nations said on Wednesday that the number of people not having enough to eat daily hit an all-time high last year and was on the verge of reaching new “appalling” levels as the war in Ukraine affects world food production.
Nearly 193 million people in 53 countries suffered from acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the UN has called a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, extreme weather and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. .
The UN said the total number of people without adequate food every day rose by 40 million last year, confirming a “worrying trend” of annual increases over several years.
The figures appeared in the Global Report on the Food Crisis, which is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Food Program and the European Union.
Countries with protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, had the most food insecure populations, according to the report.
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The report predicts that Somalia will face one of the world’s worst food crises in 2022 due to prolonged drought, rising food prices and ongoing violence. The various factors could push 6 million Somalis into an acute food crisis, according to the UN.
“Today, if more is not done to support rural communities, the scale of the devastation in terms of hunger and loss of livelihoods will be appalling,” the UN said. “Urgent humanitarian action is needed on a large scale to prevent this from happening.”
The war in Ukraine poses additional risks for Somalia and many other African countries that retaliate to Ukraine and Russia for wheat, fertilizers and other food supplies.
WFP chief economist Arif Husain said the UN food agency predicted an additional 47 million people would become food insecure “in crisis or worse” because of the war in Ukraine. due to rising food and fuel prices and inflation.
Even before the war, people were coping with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and declining incomes, and food prices were at a 10-year high and fuel prices were at a seven-year high. , he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York during a virtual press conference launching the report.
“This crisis is potentially more fuel on a fire that was already lit and burning,” Husain said.
The United Nations has previously said the war is helping to drive up the prices of basic commodities such as grains and vegetable oils to record highs, threatening millions of people with hunger and malnutrition.
“When we look at the consequences of what is happening as a result of the war in Ukraine, there are real reasons to worry about how this will amplify the acute food needs that exist in these countries in food crisis” , said Rein Paulsen, director of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
He told the virtual UN briefing that the percentage of the population analyzed in the report that is acutely food insecure has risen from just over 11% in 2016 to just over 22% in 2021. .
At the same time, Paulsen said, funding to help them has dropped, which is a huge concern. In 2021, $8.1 billion was available for emergency works, a 25% drop from 2017, he said.
The report called for increased investment in agriculture and called for $1.5 billion to help farmers in at-risk regions during the upcoming planting season to stabilize and increase local food production.
WFP’s Husain said his message to wealthy G7 and G20 countries was that global food insecurity and hunger are “exploding” and that “if we don’t tackle these issues, we will end up paying frankly thousands of times more than a few years later”. road.” He said the world has seen this happen with the Syrian war and the outpouring in Europe, with Afghanistan, and with Central Americans and Haitians trying to get into the United States.
FAO’s Paulsen said his message to donor countries is: “We must collectively put the same energy that we have deployed into the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic to fight acute hunger. … It’s a question of political will and focus.”
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