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Hunger Crisis: 780 Million Affected as Global Food Systems Falter

The world is facing a staggering humanitarian crisis as more than 780 million people go hungry, while nearly one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted. The sobering reality was highlighted by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres during his speech at the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment in Rome, Italy.

Developing countries, in particular, are grappling with the challenge of investing in food systems that can provide adequate nutrition to all people, allowing them to lead healthy lives. Alarmingly, over three billion individuals cannot afford healthy diets, a fundamental human right that should be accessible to everyone.

In a poignant observation, Guterres revealed that more than two billion people worldwide are grappling with overweight or obesity, while a shocking 462 million are underweight and lack access to financial resources and debt relief. This stark contrast in food security underscores the stark disparities and challenges faced by different populations across the globe.

The Secretary General used the occasion to shed light on the detrimental impact of unsustainable food production, packaging, and consumption on the environment. These practices are exacerbating the climate crisis, contributing to one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, consuming 70% of the world’s freshwater, and driving alarming levels of biodiversity loss.

Moreover, many communities find themselves teetering on the brink of food insecurity and potential famine, with just a single shock capable of tipping them over the edge. The situation has further escalated with the termination of the Black Sea Initiative by the Russian Federation, which had facilitated the safe export of more than 32 million metric tons of food via more than 1,000 vessels from Ukrainian ports. This initiative and the UN’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Federation to facilitate food and fertilizer exports have been critical in maintaining global food security and stabilizing global food prices.

The termination of the Black Sea Initiative has had ripple effects on global wheat and corn prices, hurting vulnerable countries that struggle to meet the nutritional needs of their populations. Guterres stressed the significance of the Russian Federation and Ukraine in ensuring global food security, as historically, they accounted for approximately 30% of global wheat and barley exports, a fifth of all maize, and more than half of all sunflower oil.

In response to the growing hunger crisis, the UN Secretary General urged the global community to support immediate solutions to ensure unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation. He emphasized the need for unity and collaboration in addressing this urgent issue.

Guterres highlighted that the weakest and most underfunded food systems, particularly in western Asia, the Caribbean, and various regions in Africa, have experienced a concerning increase in chronic hunger. The recently released State of Food Security and Nutrition Report found that one in five people in Africa is suffering from hunger, more than twice the global average.

To combat this crisis and progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 of achieving zero hunger, Guterres called on governments to respond to the UN’s call for an SDG Stimulus. This stimulus aims to scale up affordable long-term financing for countries in need by at least 500 billion dollars annually. Such an initiative would help countries build resilient food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious food for all.

Rinaani Musutua of the Basic Income Grant (BIG) Coalition expressed her sadness at Africa’s persistent poverty and the dire hunger situation. She called for more robust efforts to boost domestic food production and reduce dependence on imported food. Musutua highlighted that Namibia, with its fertile land and access to water, has the potential to develop a thriving agriculture sector.

In conclusion, the world is facing an urgent crisis as hunger continues to afflict millions. The broken global food systems demand immediate action and collaboration from governments, organizations, and individuals to alleviate suffering, promote sustainable agriculture, and ensure food security for all.

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