The war in Ukraine has shone a damming light on the fragility of the global food system. For far too long, too much of our world has relied too heavily on Russia and Ukraine, which together have accounted nearly a third of global wheat exports. The conflict there now threatens a tsunami of global hunger and malnutrition because soaring food, fertilizer and fuel prices mean thousands of families in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are unable to afford enough nutritious food.
Without urgent and ambitious intervention, experts say hundreds of millions more people worldwide will be pushed into extreme poverty and the knock-on effects of malnutrition will be felt for generations to come.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 45 percent of all child deaths globally and in the first six months of 2022, an additional 260,000 children – equivalent to one child every 60 seconds – were affected by severe wasting, according to UNICEF.
In the Arab region alone, some 51 million people suffer from hunger, the UN estimates, and many countries carry a so-called “triple burden of malnutrition” caused by undernutrition, overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies.
Investing in better nutrition for children and mothers is proven to be one of the best tools we have to transform the health and education prospects of communities. Yet, nutrition is chronically underfunded. Currently, there is an estimated annual US$11bn shortfall and as a sector, it receives less than one percent of traditional donor aid.
The combination of Covid-19, conflict, and climate change is only making this situation worse as needs deepen and budgets shrink.