World hunger needs a united global response, fast

World hunger needs a united global response, fast

World hunger needs a united global response, fast
WFP food parcels are provided to war-affected people in Irpin, Ukraine, against a backdrop of destruction. (WFP photo)
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We all share one world and, regardless of the varied experiences each of us goes through, the abiding connections that define humanity will remain forever intact.

It is precisely because of this connection and the innate human values of love, compassion and kindness that we cannot and should not overlook the plight of others.

As we reach unprecedented levels of humanitarian need around the world, we are reminded by this year’s theme for the UN’s World Humanitarian Day on Friday to celebrate the hundreds of thousands of people who make a difference to others and to the world.

They are at the heart of the entire value chain of social service; people who put their lives on the line to help affected people, wherever they are and whatever their plight may be.

This year, with the theme “It Takes a Village,” World Humanitarian Day is putting the spotlight on how our work is indeed shaped by collaboration and collective effort. The theme draws on the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, it takes collective effort to drive humanitarian action.

One of the biggest humanitarian issues today is global hunger. While global news cycles might have masked it with coverage of the pandemic and armed conflicts, the gravity and enormity of the challenge is mounting.

Even as discourses center on climate change and other similarly pressing concerns, it cannot be overstated that all these challenges invariably tie in to the fundamental task before humanity: Ensuring that our brethren, wherever they are, do not lead daily lives on empty stomachs.

The number of people affected by hunger has grown astronomically, reaching 828 million in 2021, an increase of more than 150 million since 2019. That is more than the entire population of Europe, which stands at about 740 million.

We are moving further and further away from our shared goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030

Mageed Yahia

A record 345 million people across 82 countries are facing acute food insecurity — the type that puts their lives and livelihoods in immediate danger due to inadequate consumption of food. In addition, up to 50 million people across 45 countries are on the brink of famine, and more than 880,000 are already in famine-like conditions — a figure that has increased tenfold in the last five years.

With this extraordinary and rapid rise in numbers, we are moving further and further away from our shared goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030 — a cornerstone of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As one of the organizations leading the fight against world hunger, the World Food Programme has been resolutely working to address this and yet it faces acute funding gaps. In 2021, the WFP mobilized a record $9 billion in funding, but with current developments its projected budget for 2022 is $22 billion. The prospects would be devastating if we do not reach that amount, or even half of it.

In a world where we have better living standards than our ancestors, with more access to technology and far better knowledge, it is shocking that access to food is still far beyond reach to many.

What is even more shocking, and very plausible, is that hunger is no longer limited to certain geographies and populations. Today, we are all at risk.

Throughout its history, the WFP has always been first on the scene of disasters, providing much-needed support and relief. We have the people, systems and networks in place to deploy immediate help. We guarantee that the right resources reach the right people through various technologies, such as biometrics, to meet our targets accurately.

Equally important is our work with a multitude of partners to stabilize national food systems and supply chains to address the root causes of hunger and eradicate it.

In 2021, we assisted more than 128 million people in over 120 countries and territories. However, very soon global food and nutrition needs across the globe may outstrip the capacity of the WFP or any other organization to respond if the situation remains on this disastrous path.

Unfortunately, our efforts have recently been redirected to helping the extremely vulnerable; those on the edge of famine, given the dwindling resources that we are working with. This can have catastrophic consequences.

On this World Humanitarian Day, I urge our global village — and call on governments, organizations and individuals — to be part of the global humanitarian effort to address hunger in all its forms.

Generosity and philanthropic ideals are rooted in this region and its people, and I am certain that, when the current situation is made clearer, many will make it their duty to support — no matter how small an action or contribution is.

We have seen first-hand how interconnected we are and how events that seem far away are closer than we think. There is still room for hope and we can make a difference through our concerted efforts to unite to save our fellow humans.

We would all want to matter and be saved if we were in their shoes, and that is not a far-fetched reality.

Mageed Yahia is the World Food Programme’s representative to the GCC.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view