The number of hungry people is increasing, global food aid is decreasing

What do refugees do when the camp they are staying in can no longer feed them? Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, visited the violence-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in August and met women and children returning from a refugee camp in Uganda due to lack of food. . They only received 30 percent of the food, the manager said. NRC. And it was just enough to survive. So they crossed the border on foot. “They said they preferred to die on the land of their ancestors rather than in a refugee camp,” he says.

The World Food Program (WFP) calls this a circle of doom: people in dire need of food aid are helped, at the expense of millions of needy people who, due to lack of food, will also end up in this worst category. As hunger hits record highs, food aid donations have roughly halved. There is less money for more hungry people.

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Worldwide, 345 million people will live in severe food insecurity this year. This is more than double compared to 2020. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk of suffering from exacerbated hunger. Conflict and insecurity remain the main causes: 70 percent of people who suffer from hunger live in areas ravaged by war and violence.

Walnut paste

For example, food aid to the Ethiopian state of Tigray, where war has been raging for two years, was halted almost five months ago because food was allegedly stolen. As a result, at least 1,400 people died of starvation, a WFP official said. BBC. In Niger, where a coup took place early last month, trucks carrying nut butters for malnourished children are stuck at the border because neighboring countries are blocking the transition.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, ravaged by hundreds of rebel groups who terrorize the population, 25 million people need food aid. “We can't even reach a fraction of that number,” says Egeland. “It's a horribly neglected land in the midst of an ocean of need.”

The WFP speaks of a “funding crisis”. The UN agency has only received half of the $20 billion needed this year in donations. As a result, the WFP has been forced to reduce its food aid and financial support to millions of people. Cynically, the countries where the needs are greatest are also those where funding for aid programs is declining. According to the WFP, reductions are underway or planned in at least 38 of the 86 countries where the organization operates, including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and several West African countries.

Read also: Trucks carrying nut butter for malnourished children in Niger are blocked at borders

Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen

The areas of greatest concern to WFP in the coming months are mainly in Africa. Beyond are Haiti, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. In March, for example, the WFP further reduced food rations in Afghanistan from 75 percent to 50 percent. In Syria, 5.5 million people who depended on the WFP for their food were already receiving 50 percent rations. In May and June, the organization reduced its financial aid to the Palestinian territories by 20 percent. In West Africa, where acute hunger is on the rise, most countries face significant ration cuts, especially the seven largest crisis programmes: Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.

“It is clear that aid budgets, both in Europe and in the United States, are not where they were in 2021 and 2022,” WFP director Carl Skau told a recent conference. Press. Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom, among others, have reduced their financial contributions. Humanitarian needs “exploded” from 2021, Skau said, due to the global effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Other factors driving hunger include climate change, disasters, continued inflation in food prices and increasing debt burdens of countries. “The needs continue to grow, he says, but funding is drying up. So we expect 2024 to be even more dire. He urged world leaders to prioritize humanitarian funding and invest in long-term solutions to conflict, poverty and development.

Egeland also stresses the need to put more pressure on donors. “If Saudi Arabia can spend billions on footballers and India on expeditions to the moon, they can also feed the children of Congo. »