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Another Ominous Forecast

The World Food Programme (WFP), an international organisation within the United Nations that provides food assistance worldwide, has shocked the global community by mentioning in its latest report that nearly “828 million people go to bed hungry every night“. According to the world’s largest humanitarian organisation and the leading provider of school meals, the two-year-long COVID-19 Pandemic triggered an acute food crisis in 2021. Immediately before the Pandemic, 13.5 million people worldwide were in starvation. The number has jumped three times to 34.5 million in recent times. Now, “a total of 49 million people in 49 countries are teetering on the edge of famine“.

The WFP has stated that war, political unrest, Global Warming, COVID-19 Pandemic and soaring food prices have triggered the largest food crisis in modern history. However, geopolitical instability has intensified the crisis. The price of fertilisers has increased enormously as a result of global energy crisis. Therefore, the cost of fuel, too, has increased, and so does the cost of transportation. Hence, the hike in food prices has become alarming. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine also has a devastating effect on the food market. The two former Soviet Republics used to export around 27% of the world’s total wheat. The war has severely disrupted the supply of maize and sunflower seeds, as well. The war has virtually ensured that the crisis will continue in the next financial year.

Watch: David Beasley, the WFP Executive Director, on food crisis

The Global Warming has also played an important role in the food crisis. As per the WFP report, increased heatwaves, floods and droughts have a huge impact on food production, and the Climate Change could reduce the production by 2-6% per decade. From 1964 to 1990, climate-related issues had damaged 2.2% of food grains per year on an average. However, there was an annual loss of 7.6% of crops due to Climate Change from 1991 to 2015. The disruption of the international supply chain because of the COVID-19 lockdown has affected the supply of foodgrains, and consequently, their prices.

This massive hunger has, naturally, led to political unrest in different parts of the globe. There were huge protests in Iran against the increase in the price of wheat in May 2022. As a number of African countries are heavily dependent on exports from Russia and Ukraine for food, they are paying the price of the ongoing war. The WFP has mentioned in its report that Europe confronted its biggest refugee crisis after the UN organisation was forced to stop feeding Syrian refugees in 2015 due to lack of funds. The WFP has warned that if the underdeveloped countries, currently facing acute food crisis, are not equipped to deal with the problem, then the Developed World could face refugee crisis, yet again. “The WFP requires USD 22.2 billion to reach 160 million people in 2022. However, with the global economy reeling from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the gap between needs and funding is bigger than ever before,” stressed the UN agency.

Never before in the history of human civilisation has there been such a prosperous time as the 21st Century. Unfortunately, one in 10 people in the world has to spend the night without food during this period, and mere lack of food is prompting people to migrate to foreign countries. The WFP has urged all the countries to come forward, and to provide funds for the immediate solution of this global crisis. It is expected that the wealthy and industrialised nations would take on more responsibility in the coming days. However, it would not be a permanent solution. Serious efforts should be made to protect the environment, as well as to stop political unrest.

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