Photo: WFP/Diego Fernandez

14 Facts Linking Climate, Disasters & Hunger

World Food Programme
May 13, 2021

Most of us have an inherent understanding that our food supply is tied to weather. Plants and animals require water to grow, and that water comes from rainfall or irrigation systems that are linked to lakes, streams or aquifers. Crops require sunshine, soil and moderate temperatures to thrive. The same basic requirements are true for livestock and fisheries, so when extreme weather causes droughts or floods, the risk of going hungry increases.

Here are 14 facts that highlight the link between hunger and natural disasters:

The Big Picture: Extreme Weather is Intensifying

1.      Extreme weather events have more than doubled in the last 30 years.

2.      More than 80 percent of the world’s most food-insecure people live in disaster-prone countries with high levels of environmental degradation.

3.      Extreme weather could force over 100 million more people into hunger and poverty by 2030, and displace as many as 1 billion people by the year 2050.

4.      Forty percent of civil wars or internal conflicts in unstable countries are the result of competition for scarce food and resources.

The Human Impact of How Climate Change

5.      More than 20 percent of the variations in people’s height in developing countries is determined by environmental factors, particularly drought.

6.      The dry area of land below the Sahara Desert in Africa has experienced the most land degradation of anywhere in the world. For example, 90 percent of Lake Chad has dried up due to rising temperatures, forcing women to walk further to collect water for their families.

7.      Studies from Bangladesh show increased rates of wasting (being underweight for your age) and stunting (being too short for your age) among preschool children after floods due to reduced access to food, increased difficulties in providing proper care and greater exposure to contaminants.

8.      Extreme weather events in South and Central America are causing record high levels of displacement and mass migration, with nearly 8 million people affected in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua — also known as “The Dry Corridor.”

9.     Failing to build up resilience to climate change could increase hunger and malnutrition by up to 20 percent by 2050.

10.  In Niger, regardless of birth location, children born during a drought are more than twice as likely to be malnourished between the ages of one and two.

Our Food Supply is Dependent on Climate

11.  By 2019, nearly a quarter of the world’s farmable lands were degraded.

12.  Almost 90 percent of the world’s 570 million farms are family-owned, the majority of which are located in poor and rural areas.

13.  Over a third of all crops grown for human consumption rely on pollinators like birds, bees and bats.

14.  The global population is expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. In order to meet this growing demand for food, production will have to increase 50 percent by 2050.


Of all these facts, the most important one is this: We will not be able to eliminate hunger without helping vulnerable people – those living at the very limits of what our climate can sustain – build the infrastructure they need to withstand and overcome extreme weather.

To learn more, see how climate change affects hunger.