As economies tumble, inflation surges and global food prices soar to critically high levels, two sectors seem to have hit the jackpot in 2022 – energy giants and grain traders. An estimated 345 million people may now be in acute food insecurity, compared with 135 million before the pandemic. Vulnerable populations face destitution in poorer food-importing countries such as Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Poor consumers in rich countries are struggling to put food on the table. Supply shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been the spark for this inferno of hunger. But the kindling for the fire was already stoked: the severe, underlying weaknesses in our food system. These include many countries’ heavy reliance on food imports, entrenched production systems, financial speculation, and cycles of poverty and debt.
João Pedro Stedile of the national leadership of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) talks about the current crisis in the agrarian sector and the way forward. He explains how the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro has wrecked agriculture, leading to a rise in hunger. He also talks about the MST’s proposals for reviving the sector which include both immediate steps to alleviate hunger and structural solutions to long-term problems. These include the key role cooperatives must play in the country.
A staggering 2.3 billion (30 percent) of the world’s population were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021, with nearly 12 percent facing severe food insecurity. Millions across the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Yemen and Syria already experiencing severe levels of hunger and poverty face the prospect of mass starvation. This is set to worsen due to the US/NATO provoked war in Ukraine, with executive director of the UN’s World Food Program (WPF) David Beasley warning that the food crisis caused by the war would push countries into famine, causing “global destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale.”
The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have identified numerous states warranting immediate attention as the problems of climate change, internal conflict, economic downturns and the continuing war in Ukraine are exacerbating the current crisis. In the Sahel region of Africa, the nation of Chad, is challenged by grain supplies which have dropped to dangerous lows forcing the transitional military-dominated government to declare a food emergency requesting that aid be sent into the country to avoid further food deficits. Chad has been severely impacted by drought leaving large areas of farmland unproductive. A landlocked country in Central Africa consisting of 16.4 million people, historically the former French colony has suffered from political instability engendered by its ongoing dependency on Paris and the United States for economic assistance and military involvement.
“There is really no true solution to the problem of global food security without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war.” These blunt words by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres accurately describe the present global food crisis. As the U.S. and the G7 (comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) insist that cutting off food exports from Ukraine poses the biggest threat to world food security, rather than admitting the far more powerful negative effect of Western sanctions against Russia, their propaganda does immense damage to the world’s understanding and capability of avoiding a looming global food disaster.
With the UN reporting that hunger in Afghanistan could kill more civilians than the 20-year Afghanistan war, an international debate is raging over the policy by the U.S. and other governments about getting aid to that country. The president just announced a plan to confiscate $7 Billion in Afghan funds and set aside half of it for families of 9/11 victims and to create a "third-party trust fund" to pay for humanitarian aid with the other half. Critics of the decision, including those who worked for the former U.S.-backed Afghan government, lambasted Biden's decision saying that the currency reserves belong to the Afghan people. With those debates as a background, peace groups and humanitarian groups are coming together in a Valentine's Day Vigil to memorialize the loss of life and to ask that the U.S. change its policies.
On January 11, 2022, the United Nations (UN) Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths appealed to the international community to help raise $4.4 billion for Afghanistan in humanitarian aid, calling this effort, “the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance.” This amount is required “in the hope of shoring up collapsing basic services there,” said the UN. If this appeal is not met, Griffiths said, then “next year  we’ll be asking for $10 billion.” The figure of $10 billion is significant. A few days after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021, the US government announced the seizure of $9.5 billion in Afghan assets that were being held in the US banking system. Under pressure from the United States government, the International Monetary Fund also denied Afghanistan access to $455 million of its share of special drawing rights, the international reserve asset that the IMF provides to its member countries to supplement their original reserves.
Washington – Already dealing with the economic fallout from a protracted pandemic, the rapidly rising prices of food and other key commodities have many fearing that unprecedented political and social instability could be just around the corner next year. With the clock ticking on student loan and rent debts, the price of a standard cart of food has jumped 6.4% in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the cost of eating out in a restaurant similarly spiking, by 5.8% since November 2020. The most notable change has been in the price of meat, with beef costing 26.2% more than it did last year, pork 19.2% more and chicken 14.8% more. Bacon prices have reached historic levels, and are now 36% higher than in 1980, even after adjusting for inflation.
Oakland, CA — U.S. food banks already dealing with increased demand from families sidelined by the pandemic now face a new challenge — surging food prices and supply chain issues walloping the nation. The higher costs and limited availability mean some families may get smaller servings or substitutions for staples such as peanut butter, which costs nearly double what it did a year ago. As holidays approach, some food banks worry they won’t have enough stuffing and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas. “What happens when food prices go up is food insecurity for those who are experiencing it just gets worse,” said Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that coordinates the efforts of more than 200 food banks across the country.
On 5 October, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a historic, non-legally binding resolution that ‘recognises the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a human right that is important for the enjoyment of human rights’. Such a right should force governments who sit at the table at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow later this month to think about the grievous harm caused by the polluted system that shapes our lives. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) pointed out that 92% of the world’s population breathes toxic air quality; in the developing world, 98% of children under five are inflicted with such bad air. Polluted air, mostly from carbon emissions, results in 13 deaths per minute globally.
The 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI), published on Thursday, revealed soaring levels of hunger among the poor and working populations around the globe. The foreword, written by the heads of Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, the organizations responsible for the GHI, stated that the report “points to a dire hunger situation, a result of the toxic cocktail of the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasingly severe and protracted conflicts.” Rising food prices are a critical contributing factor in the growth of world hunger over the past year. Rapidly mounting inflation and the disruption of the supply chain networks of global capitalism are driving up the prices of all basic consumer goods. The U.S. Energy Information Authority reported that nearly half of all US households who use natural gas to heat their homes will pay an average of 30 to 50 percent more this winter for heating than last year.
The pandemic has created extraordinary need for millions of people across the U.S. This is particularly acute, though often hidden, on college campuses, where students are sometimes left to choose between paying rent and having enough to eat. During their college careers, far too many students lack reliable access to nutritious food, hampering their efforts to advance their education and skills. Even before the pandemic, 43 percent of students at two- and four-year colleges reported facing food insecurity — defined as limited or uncertain access to adequate food — in the previous month, the nonprofit Hope Center found. Black, Latino and Native American students were at even greater risk. This inequality compounds systemic economic disparities.
According to the United Nations, the world produces enough food to feed 10 billion people. Yet this year, even in the United States, the world’s richest country, 1 in 3 American families with kids went hungry. Even before the pandemic, in 2019, official statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) detailed that 35 million people went hungry–10 million of them children. The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged the situation, exposing even those who felt “secure” to the possibility of going without eating. In a society where food is not a human right but a good to be purchased, how were people supposed to eat if they couldn’t work? The short answer: they didn’t. Receiving almost no help from the federal government, working people in the United States were laid off by the millions.
Aden, Yemen - “The prices are skyrocketing. We can’t feed our children. They are starving,” Saher Abdu Salem, a government employee and a mother of five, said as she participated in a protest in Aden against Saudi Arabia and the government of ousted Yemeni President Abdul-Mansour al-Hadi. The protests took place at the Aden port this week in the wake of a recent decision by the Saudi-backed government in Aden to raise the U.S. dollar exchange rate for major life-saving goods. Now Saher and her husband are struggling to feed their family in the coastal city where the price of the staple ‘rooti’ loaf of bread has soared 250% in a month, its portion halved in size. “When the U.S. State Department expresses its concern over us, this means that it will deal a new blow to our hungry stomachs,” she said.
Despite crippling, unilateral sanctions and globally rising food prices, hunger levels in Nicaragua have been falling. The Sandinista government has been able to ensure people’s food needs are met through its focus on building food sovereignty and security. How has this been achieved? Erika Takeo from Nicaragua’s Association of Rural Workers (ATC) and Rohan Rice, a writer and campaigner with the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign explain.