In countries such as Mali, Ethiopia, Haiti and Laos, hunger has reached unprecedented levels, says Plan International. FAO is sounding the alarm about the hunger crisis caused by the fallout from the war in Ukraine, climate change and the coronavirus: all this has led to an unprecedented escalation of food insecurity.
Plan International notes that girls and women suffer the most in the countries and projects in which the organization is active. “When food is scarce, girls often eat less and eat last,” says Isabelle Verhagen, Director of Plan International Belgium.
All over the world, food prices are rising dramatically, and according to the testimonies of Plan International, girls often not only eat last, for example to feed their children, but are also exposed to other risks. For example, they are often not allowed to go to school because they have to work.
The causes of the hunger crisis are many and complex. Climate change, for example, leads to storms and droughts, destroying crops around the world. But the war in Ukraine also has clear consequences.
“Ukraine’s crop typically feeds 400 million people,” said Oni Krishnan, director of humanitarian affairs at Plan International. “Every day that the conflict continues, people are feeling the devastating effects more and more. The rapid rise in food prices is making a bad situation more dangerous.”
According to the United Nations, 928 million people suffer from hunger today – an increase of 148 million over last year. Plan International runs programs around school meals and other food parcels in 17 of the hardest-hit areas around the world. In places hit by drought, the NGO even works in distributing seeds or livestock, such as cows or sheep.
“By addressing these basic needs of families, we can prevent severe consequences for girls,” says Isabelle Verhagen. “Only in this way will their health, education and personal development not be compromised.” Plan International Belgium began fundraising this week via the website planinternational.be.
The occupation exacerbates the food crisis in Palestine
The food crisis is deeply felt in Palestine. Wheat flour stocks in Palestine may run out completely within three weeks, according to Oxfam. The price of basic foodstuffs has already increased by about 25 percent. “Palestinian families are being hit hard by rising food prices on the global market and many are struggling to meet their basic needs,” said Shane Stephenson, Oxfam’s director for the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in many Middle Eastern countries caused chaos in the food markets. The region is largely dependent on grain imports from both countries. But Stevenson notes that the food crisis in Palestine is exacerbated by “the continuing military occupation of Israel, land grabs, and settler violence.”
The Palestinian Authority, which acts as the government of the Palestinians, must import 95 percent of its wheat. However, it does not have its own food storage infrastructure and is therefore forced to rely on Palestinian personnel and Israeli facilities. But Israel also imports half of its grain from Ukraine.
According to the World Food Program, the war in Ukraine has led to an increase in the prices of grain and other foodstuffs in the Palestinian territories. The United Nations agency says that the price of wheat flour rose by 23.6 percent, corn oil by 26.3 percent, lentils by 17.6 percent and table salt by 30 percent. All this has a significant impact on the purchasing power of the Palestinians.
The World Food Program says most families in Gaza are already forced to buy food on credit. As a result, they switch to smaller amounts and lower quality foods. Due to the higher prices, they reduce the purchase of more expensive foods such as fruit, meat and chicken, which are essential parts of a healthy diet.
In the West Bank, animal feed prices, especially wheat bran, increased by 60 percent. The price explosion of Palestinian livestock farmers comes on top of an escalation of violent attacks by Israeli settlers and forced displacement under Israel’s annexation policy.
Very high feed prices
“Farmers in Area C (Palestinian lands, under full Israeli control, ed.) are subjected to daily attacks by Israeli settlers to drive them off their lands,” said Abbas Melhem of the Palestinian Farmers Union. “With these challenges, especially with feed prices so high, livestock farmers cannot survive and defend their land unless our government takes immediate action to help save the livestock industry.” To prevent the strip’s collapse, the Palestinian Farmers’ Union is urging the government to abolish the value-added tax on animal feed.