From the Field

10 world hunger facts you need to know

A young child sits on a woman’s lap while the circumference of their arm is measured. The tape shows a red color.

Hunger is worsening worldwide. As many as 828 million people — about 10% of the global population — regularly go to bed hungry. Economic shocks, extreme weather events, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine have restricted global food supplies, driven up prices, and presented a threat to vulnerable populations and countries.

Here are 10 important facts you should know about global hunger and food insecurity:

1. Food insecurity is growing: In 2022, nearly 258 million people across 58 countries faced crisis or higher levels of food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Crisis levels and above indicate that affected people had so little food that their lives or livelihoods were in immediate danger. This number of people is the highest on record and represents the fourth consecutive year of increasing acute food insecurity globally.

2. Conflict, economic shocks, and weather extremes impact world hunger: In recent years, the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, recurrent droughts, and severe weather events like flooding have driven the increase in global hunger. These factors often compound and contribute to the worsening of food insecurity worldwide.

In 2022, conflict was the primary driver of acute food insecurity in 19 countries, impacting 117.1 million people who faced crisis or higher levels of food insecurity. Economic shocks surpassed conflict as the main driver in three countries: Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Syria. Additionally, a spike in gang violence in Haiti also escalated severe acute food insecurity.

In a covered brick building, aid workers prepare emergency food supplies in boxes and large white bags stacked in rows.
World Vision, in partnership with the WFP, distributed vital food supplies to more than 5,000 people who were displaced as a result of the escalating conflict in Sudan. Since the outbreak of violence in mid-April 2023, those affected have sought refuge near the Sudanese border in Malakal, South Sudan. (©2023 World Vision/photo by Scovia Faida Charles)

3. The war in Ukraine is impacting global hunger: Even before the war began, food insecurity was rising worldwide. Since the war’s onset in 2022, the global food supply has been disrupted, as Ukraine is a major exporter of cereal grains and sunflower oil. The war has increased hunger risks for one-fifth of the global population — around 1.7 billion people —  due to rising food prices, climbing energy prices, and growing financial constraints.

Global fertilizer prices have surged faster than food prices, now at a 10-year high. The war and increased natural gas prices have disrupted fertilizer production and exports globally, threatening supply, spiking costs, and jeopardizing future harvests.

4. Food insecurity forces families into distressing choices: When families don’t have enough to eat or money to buy food, they must often make difficult and dangerous decisions that impact their children’s well-being and put them at risk of violence. Children are vulnerable to situations like child marriage, child labor, and separation when their families are desperately searching for food security.

5. Millions of children are dangerously malnourished: 30 million children are suffering from wasting (also known as acute malnutrition). Children who are wasted experience developmental delays and many long-term health risks. More than 1 million children die each year from severe wasting. In addition, in 2022, 22% of children under 5 suffered from stunting, which is low height-for-age and is a result of chronic undernutrition that puts children at risk of irreversible cognitive and physical consequences. Most children with stunting live in Asia (52%) or Africa (43%).

A health worker measures the arm of a child with a mid-upper arm circumference tape. The tape shows a red indicator of severe malnutrition.
Zaid (name changed to protect identity) was among the hundreds of thousands of children in Syria facing the devastating effects of malnutrition. According to UNICEF, around 600,000 children under 5 in Syria are stunted. The protracted crisis in Syria has left about two-thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance, making it one of the most complex emergencies in the world. (©2023 photo courtesy of SEMA)
A boy looks up as a health worker measures his arm using a mid-upper arm circumference test that shows green, which indicates a healthy measurement.
After receiving nutritional care from World Vision partner Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA), Zaid’s health significantly improved. Despite a brief relapse, he received further medical intervention and, with SEMA’s support and the introduction of solid foods, he gradually regained his health. The nutrition project, supporting 75,000 people, plays a crucial role in providing essential services. Zaid’s mother, Salam, expresses her gratitude. “I feel joyful when he’s healthy. He’s walking his first steps … SEMA didn’t leave my side, and they were a family to me.” (©2023 photo courtesy of SEMA)

6. Displacement is both a driver and a consequence of food insecurity: Conflicts, wars, economic crises, and extreme weather events like droughts can cause people to leave their homes. When people are displaced, they can lose access to essential resources like food, clean water, and healthcare and become more vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. The number of displaced people, including refugees and internally displaced individuals, reached 103 million at the end of 2021.

7. Humanitarian organizations around the world are working toward the goal of ending hunger: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 is to end hunger by 2030. Ongoing conflict, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and extreme weather events have intensified existing inequalities worldwide, making this goal even more challenging to attain.

World Vision remains steadfast in its commitment to help end hunger, and we thank God for the progress that has been made while adapting and adjusting our programs to respond to current realities.

8. World Vision’s focus is on vulnerable countries: World Vision is working to save lives in countries where people are suffering unimaginable levels of hunger. We’re responding with life-saving aid, access to clean water, health and nutrition programming, and child protection efforts. As of late June 2023, we’ve reached over 21 million people — 11 million of them children — in 28 countries with life-saving assistance through our programs. Countries of focus include:

  • East Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania
  • Southern Africa: Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, and Lesotho
  • West Africa: Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Sierra Leone
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela
  • Middle East: Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen
  • Asia: Myanmar and Sri Lanka

9. World Vision is uniquely positioned to respond to the hunger crisis: With more than seven decades of experience and a broad operational presence around the world, World Vision is well-equipped to tackle the challenges of the hunger crisis. We are supported by generous partners, dedicated sponsors, and government and private grants. As the WFP’s largest implementing partner globally, we provide immediate food aid during crises to help save lives. We also equip communities to recover and develop their capacity to provide food for themselves and their families.

10. You can join in the effort to end world hunger.

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