An Action Against Hunger nutrition expert assesses a child’s nutrition status. Peter Caton for Action Against Hunger, South Sudan.
After steadily declining for a decade, global hunger is once again on the rise. Conflict, climate change, and inequality are driving millions into a state of severe food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened this alarming trend and is estimated to add millions to the ranks of the undernourished. Here, we look at the root causes of hunger, and why it remains one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in 2021.
Although the world produces more than enough food for everyone, millions go to sleep hungry every night. Hunger disproportionately impacts women and children, and can lead to a range of health issues from cognitive impairment to lower resistance to infections. In order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger, it is essential that we take a closer look at our global food system, and that leaders use opportunities like the G7 and Nutrition for Growth summits to increase commitments to ending hunger and ensure access to healthy and adequate food for everyone.
Conflict, climate change and inequality are major drivers of world hunger.
These three drivers are closely interconnected.
Conflict is the biggest driver of hunger in the world today. Conflict leads to greater food insecurity, which in turn fuels further unrest. About 60% of the chronically food insecure live in countries affected by conflict or which are still suffering the consequences of a past conflict, notably Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 
Hunger is too often used as a weapon of war. Tactics like poisoning wells and burning fields are used to oppress and subjugate populations. To help fight these tactics, Action Against Hunger supported UN Security Council Resolution 2417, which condemns the starving of civilians as a method of warfare as well as the unlawful denial of humanitarian access to civilian populations.
The climate crisis and extreme weather conditions pushed 34 million people into food insecurity in 2019. Destructive climate events like cyclones, floods and drought can displace populations, destroy crops, and trigger disease outbreaks among animals, depriving people of their livelihoods. Climate events often force people to seek refuge in other countries, which in turn causes additional pressure on resources and can lead to conflict.
To help counter the effects of climate change and build more resilient food systems, Action Against Hunger supports the creation of gardens and seed banks, and provides training and tools for communities to encourage sustainable agricultural practices.
Unequal access to resources, such as water, cultivable land, education and healthcare, is a major driver of hunger. Millions of people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. This leaves them extremely vulnerable to waterborne diseases, which are a major cause of malnutrition, especially in children. The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of child malnutrition cases are directly linked to the consumption of unsafe water as well as inadequate hygiene and sanitation practices. To fight hunger sustainably and effectively, it is essential to guarantee SDG number 6: access to water for all.
Gender inequality is also a significant driver of hunger. Around the world, women and girls eat last and least, and have less access to land and resources. They are also more likely to be affected by climate change, population displacement and conflict.  If women had equal access to land, hunger could fall by 12 to 17%.
Action Against Hunger places a strong emphasis on gender equality and empowering women to ensure a healthy future for themselves and their children. Since 2018, Action Against Hunger has been a proud member of the global Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies, a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to transform the humanitarian response to GBV and address GBV from the earliest stages of a crisis.
Addressing hunger requires a multifaceted approach. Click here to learn more about our programs.
- Rapport World Food Program 2020: https://www.wfp.org/publications/2020-global-report-food-crises
- Rapport « Une Pincée d’agroécologie pour une louche d’agro–industrie » ACF/Oxfam/CCFD
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