14 Facts Linking Climate, Disasters & Hunger

World Food Programme
August 20, 2019
Photo: WFP/Matteo Caravani

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

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 122 million more people into hunger and poverty by 2030.

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

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.      Drought in South and Central America is causing record high levels of displacement and mass migration, affected 2.2 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua — also known as “The Dry Corridor.”

9.      In the Philippines over the last two decades, 15 times as many infants have died in the 24 months following typhoon events as died in the typhoons themselves. Most of them were infant girls.

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

11.  Nearly a quarter of the world’s farmable lands are degraded.

12.  More than ten percent of the world’s population (980 million people) live in poor, rural areas where they depend on small farms to feed themselves.

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, visit our Climate Change & Hunger hub.