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The world must wake up to the horror coming down the track – we must act NOW

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The UN Secretary General has warned of “multiple famines in 2022”, and that “this year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage…no country will be immune”.  The world’s fragile food system, far too reliant on exports from Russia and Ukraine, has been plunged into chaos – that, combined with seasonal extremes in drought and rain and an unprecedented pandemic, has created the perfect storm. WFP warns that 345 million people are facing acute food insecurity, an increase of 25% from the start of the year and more than double from the figure in 2019 when it was 152 million. We’ll see famine in the Horn of Africa like that in the 1980s, yet food insecurity will also be much broader, engulfing huge swathes of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A colleague recently returned from Egypt and said the government is talking about 80 million people (4 out of 5 of the population) suffering food insecurity.

I understand there are huge issues closer to home – Covid, Climate Change and the Cost of living crisis all paint a bleak picture here too. And anyone under 40 might have seen the occasional TV picture of malnourished children, but they don’t have that visceral, impossible to forget image of the 80s Ethiopian or Horn of Africa famine.

That’s partly because the world learnt from the 80s and has dodged many famines since, through better early warning systems and pre-positioning of critical food, nutrition and other supplies. We must also remember to celebrate success. In 2000, 1 in 3 children were stunted – too short for their age – due to not eating nutritious food in their early years. Today, just over 1 in 5 children are stunted, huge progress in a relatively short amount of time.

Yet that doesn’t change the facts of now. The world needs to wake up to the malnutrition horror coming down the track. This is going to be on a scale none of us have experienced before. WFP predict more people will die of hunger than at any time since WW2, when 10-15 million died (of hunger, not bullets).

We’ve been at the heart of the #HungryForAction campaign, advocating the G7 acts ambitiously, now.

We have also launched a Global Malnutrition Crisis Appeal, which funds one of the most proven effective interventions – cash transfers, to the most vulnerable households. A donor has committed $20m but only if we match it.

We urge you to join us in doing whatever you can to ring the alarm bell and to help with the response. We must act NOW and AMBITIOUSLY.

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