Up to 811 million people — about 10% of the world’s population — regularly go to bed hungry. The war in Ukraine has made conditions worse in 2022, as conflict restricts global food supplies, drives up prices, and threatens the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.
Here are 10 facts you should know about global hunger and food insecurity:
1. More people are at risk of starving.
More than 48 million people are facing emergency levels of hunger, with the threat of acute malnutrition, starvation, and death, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). The number is growing at an alarming rate, reports the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC). About 193 million people in 53 countries/territories experienced acute food insecurity at crisis levels or worse in 2021, an increase of nearly 40 million people compared to 2020, according to the GNAFC.
2. Poverty and inequality as underlying causes of world hunger.
Conflict, extreme weather patterns, and disparities caused by economic shocks and health crises, including the coronavirus pandemic, are main drivers behind the rise of food insecurity. Conflict remains a primary driver of food insecurity, having forced 139 million people in 24 countries/territories into acute levels of food insecurity, an increase from 99 million in 23 countries/territories in 2020.
3. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated global food insecurity.
Even before the war in Ukraine, food insecurity was increasing around the world. Now, the rising costs of fuel, fertilizer, and wheat, driven by shortages and sanctions arising from the war in Ukraine, are fueling the hunger crisis and creating the potential for mass starvation across hunger hotspots in multiple nations around the world, according to United Nations agencies. Ukraine (considered the “breadbasket of Europe”) and Russia together export 29% of the world’s wheat. In 2021, Ukraine was among the top three global exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed (used to make canola oil), sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil. Increased stress on food systems could lead to 323 million people facing acute hunger in 2022. Out of 55 countries with food crises, 36 depended on Ukrainian and Russian exports for more than 10% of their wheat imports in 2021, according to the GNAFC.
4. Some regions have a higher risk of hunger than others.
In 2021, nearly 70% of people facing crisis levels of hunger were living in 10 countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen. Almost 40 million people in 36 countries were facing emergency levels of hunger. Of critical concern are the more than 570,000 individuals who faced starvation and death in just four countries: Ethiopia, southern Madagascar, South Sudan, and Yemen.
As of 2021, the WFP estimates up to 283 million people are acutely food insecure or at high risk in 80 countries.
5. More children will suffer life-threatening forms of malnutrition.
Over 45 million children are affected by wasting, the most visible, severe, and potentially life-threatening form of malnutrition. Globally, 1 in 5 deaths among children under 5 is attributed to severe wasting, also known as severe acute malnutrition. More than 1 million children die each year from severe wasting.
6. The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on global poverty is unknown.
Before the pandemic, the number of people living in extreme poverty — on less than $1.90 a day — had been declining. But that trend was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, combined with the effects of conflict and extreme weather patterns around the world. While the full impact is unknown, the World Bank estimates that an additional 75 to 95 million people could be living in extreme poverty in 2022, compared to initial pre-pandemic projections.
7. The world is falling behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal for hunger.
The United Nations’ “zero hunger” Sustainable Development Goal calls for ending hunger in the world by 2030. Conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and extreme weather events have intensified underlying inequalities around the world, making this goal even more difficult to achieve.
At World Vision, we’re committed to continue working to end hunger, and we give thanks to God for the progress that has been made while adapting and adjusting our programs to respond to current realities.
8. World Vision is focused on 24 vulnerable countries to help end world hunger.
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. Our goal is to reach 15 million people who face life-threatening hunger. Countries of concern include:
- East Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania
- Southern Africa: Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- West Africa: Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger
- Latin America and the Caribbean: Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela
- Middle East: Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
- Asia: Myanmar
9. World Vision is uniquely positioned to respond to the hunger crisis due to our extensive operational presence worldwide and expertise and leadership in food and nutrition programming.
In addition to having over 70 years of experience working with communities, partners, and governments worldwide, we are also supported by our generous partners, faithful donors who sponsor children, and government and private grants. World Vision is the World Food Programme’s largest implementing partner worldwide. During food crises and other disasters, World Vision provides immediate food aid to help people get through the worst days and save the lives of children and other vulnerable people. When the situation improves, we continue to help communities recover and build their capacity to provide food for themselves and their families.
10. Help us end world hunger, now.
- Pray for children and families affected by hunger, the long-term effects of which are devastating to their future. Pray that nutritious food will be readily available in hungry communities — food that they can afford to buy or raise themselves.
- Help provide life-saving food and care. Your gift will help provide interventions like emergency food aid, agricultural support, clean water, medicine, and other essential care to hungry children and families around the world.
- Sponsor a child today. Sponsorship is the most powerful way you can tackle poverty. When you sponsor a child, you provide access to life-saving basics like nutritious food, healthcare, access to clean water, education, and more.
Chris Huber and Sevil Omer of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.