Walk into any supermarket across Australia and it’s hard to believe people can go hungry today.

Imagine, though, each item on each shelf in each aisle, including the frozen sections, represents each person in the world who struggles to find even one meal a day. It still wouldn’t add up to the disproportionate number of global neighbours for whom hunger is daily challenge.

Despite recent progress in combating global hunger, a perfect storm of circumstances now threatens humans’ most essential survival tool: food. Between COVID-19’s impact, military conflicts, environmental disasters and subsequent rising costs, the world is facing what the United Nations’ World Food Program calls ‘catastrophic hunger’ for hundreds of millions of people, a food crisis ‘beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II.’

Catastrophic Hunger Crisis for Millions of People

During the pandemic of the past two years, for instance, hunger rose between 720 million and 811 million around the globe. Even before COVID, the world faced a malnutrition crisis, meaning that even if people were eating enough food, they weren’t eating enough nutritious foods to keep illness at bay. A lack of nourishing foods contributes to nearly half of all preventable deaths among children under five, with 200 million children worldwide under five malnourished. In fact, every 11 seconds—about the time it takes to grab a jar of pasta sauce from the supermarket shelf—a child dies from malnutrition.

every 11 seconds—about the time it takes to grab a jar of pasta sauce from the supermarket shelf—a child dies from malnutrition.

Global hunger means children in already vulnerable communities are behind in school, babies lack the nourishment they need to develop properly, and parents are limited in opportunities for work, income or well-being. It’s what we call food insecurity. It’s not just skipping a meal every now and then; it’s a whole of life set back.

What Are the Main Causes of Food Insecurity?

Such moderate or severe food insecurity has been climbing slowly for six years and now affects more than 30 percent of the world population, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. Why?

Military Conflicts Create Hunger

The war in Ukraine is having a ripple effect on the global food market, affecting farmers as far away as Somalia and Kenya, and experts say it could cause an additional 7.6 million to 13.1 million people to go hungry.

Now, staple foods such as wheat are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive as trade routes from Ukraine and Russia are disrupted. Many countries import 60-80 per cent of their wheat from Ukraine. With these imports disrupted, the price of bread and other staple foods is rapidly rising, affecting the most economically vulnerable families most of all.

Meanwhile, our Christian Partners in Lebanon and Kenya work to provide care, food vouchers and meals for those families who have recently been displaced.

Natural Disasters Create Hunger

Floods, fires, droughts and catastrophic storms have also meant rising costs for crucial agricultural-related necessities. Such environmental crises have disrupted access to fuel, fertilizer, seeds and wreaked havoc on supply chains. Consequently, rising food prices are directly affecting increased numbers of hunger this year alone.

For instance, after experiencing one of their worst droughts in almost 40 years, 14 million people Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya urgently need aid. The failure of three successive rainy seasons there has also destroyed livelihoods and forced families to leave their homes in search of food and water.

Thankfully, our Christian Partners are providing environmentally sensitive agricultural workshops, teaching new farming techniques to local families and creating resilient communities.

COVID-19 Creates Hunger

COVID hasn’t been merely about public health issues or vaccinations. It’s also meant a spike in world hunger because farmers have been unable to sell their produce due to lockdowns. And incomes among already vulnerable communities have fallen due the economic implications of COVID and border closures.

As a tenth of the global population now face hunger, it’s estimated around 660 million may still face hunger in 2030 part due to lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global food security.

The World Food Program’s costs have already increased by $71 million a month, enough to cut daily rations for 3.8 million people. Soon, ‘we’ll be taking food from the hungry to give to the starving,’ according to the WFP’s executive director.

That’s why the 2022 Matching Grant’s emphasis on food insecurity is so crucial. It helps our Christian Partners provide meals, seeds, training and opportunities to grow food for families across 18 countries. Because in a world of plenty, God’s desire is that no one should be hungry.