Unprecedented Hunger to Follow in Wake of the Climate Crisis, WFP Calls for Urgent Action on World Food Day

Photo: WFP/Tsiory Andriantsoarana
Published October 14, 2021

ROME – The world faces an exponential increase in hunger fueled by the climate crisis if urgent global action to help communities adapt to climatic shocks and stresses is ignored, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns ahead of World Food Day, on October 16.

A U.N. World Food Programme analysis shows that a 2 degree Celsius rise in average global temperature from pre-industrial levels will see a staggering 189 million additional people in the grips of hunger. Vulnerable communities, a vast majority of whom rely on agriculture, fishing and livestock and, who contribute the least to the climate crisis, will continue to bear the brunt of the impacts with limited means to cushion the blow.

“Large swathes of the globe, from Madagascar to Honduras to Bangladesh, are in the throes of a climate crisis that is now a daily reality for millions. The climate crisis is fueling a food crisis,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley.

Tens of thousands of lives are at risk in southern Madagascar, one of the potentially many places in the world currently where famine-like conditions have been driven by climate change. Consecutive droughts have pushed nearly 1.1 million people into severe hunger. Nearly 14,000 of them are in famine-like conditions and this number is expected to double by the end of the year. Up to 63 percent of people in the south of the country are subsistence farmers who have seen their livelihoods collapse, and their only source of food dry up, due to drought.

The Climate Crisis: A Threat Multiplier

When coupled with conflict, the climate crisis exacerbates existing vulnerabilities, magnifying the damage, destruction and despair. Extreme climate events in conflict-affected areas destroy the already meagre resources at the disposal of families and even hamper humanitarian efforts reaching communities. In Afghanistan, severe drought tied to conflict and economic hardship has left a third of the population reeling with hunger.

“If this is the new normal, we can’t keep lurching from disaster to disaster. We need to go beyond just picking up the pieces after the crisis hits, and instead manage climate risks so they no longer have the power to destroy the food security of vulnerable communities. This is where the U.N. World Food Programme’s unique expertise comes in,” added Beasley.

Manage Risks Rather Than Disasters

The U.N. World Food Programme is helping communities adapt to the changing climate that threatens their ability to grow food, secure incomes and withstand shocks. It has supported 39 governments, helping them realize their national climate ambitions.

In 2020, the U.N. World Food Programme implemented climate risk management solutions in 28 countries, benefiting more than six million people so that they are better prepared for climate shocks and stresses and can recover faster. The U.N. World Food Programme has mobilized nearly $300 million for climate action in the past decade.

In Bangladesh, the U.N. World Food Programme supports communities affected by heavy monsoons and flooding with cash assistance ahead of disasters so that they are able to buy food and medicine, protect critical assets and transport livestock and families to safe places. By using early warning data to trigger action, the U.N. World Food Programme empowered households to prepare for flood impacts and prevent losses and damages. This reduced the cost of the emergency response by over half.

The U.N. World Food Programme, working with partners, has protected 1.5 million people in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and the Gambia from catastrophic drought events with climate risk insurance, through the African Risk Capacity Replica Initiative.

“Conflict is plunging millions into hunger today, but the climate crisis has the potential to dwarf conflict as the main cause of hunger tomorrow. We urgently need to invest in early warning systems and climate adaptation and resilience programmes to avert this looming humanitarian disaster,” said Beasley.

Note to editors:

Broadcast quality footage available here

Photos available here

#                           #                            #

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media