The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Tuesday, December 5 that it is suspending its food distribution program in areas controlled by the government in Yemen’s capital Sana’a due to lack of funds and lack of agreement with the authorities. The government in Sanaa is backed by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group which also controls most of northern Yemen. “This difficult decision, made in consultation with donors, comes after nearly a year of negotiations, during which no agreement was reached to reduce the number of people served from 9.5 million to 6.5 million,” the WFP statement read.
For the first time ever, food and agriculture took center stage at the annual United Nations climate conference in 2023. More than 130 countries signed a declaration on Dec. 1, committing to make their food systems – everything from production to consumption – a focal point in national strategies to address climate change. The declaration is thin on concrete actions to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions, but it draws attention to a crucial issue. The global food supply is increasingly facing disruptions from extreme heat and storms. It is also a major contributor to climate change, responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
This October 16, 2023, we, the peasants of the world, once again call to commemorate the International Day of Action for Peoples’ Food Sovereignty against Transnational Corporations. On this day, the global movement for Food Sovereignty denounces the control of food systems in the hands of agribusiness transnationals, a global corporate network that is intensifying the hunger of millions of people in the world, as well as the massification of malnutrition as a chronic disease of the new generations. It is unacceptable that more and more people in the world are going hungry and that food insecurity is intensifying, affecting one third of the world’s population.
On Monday, September 4, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, criticized the World Food Programme’s (WFP) decision to scale back its aid program in the country. He termed it part of the US attempts to continue the humanitarian crisis there. Earlier, the WFP had stated that due to lack of funds, it will be forced to cut the size of its aid program in Yemen from September. Al-Houthi met with WFP’s Middle East and North Africa director, Corinne Fleischer, and claimed that the UN has failed to carry out the humanitarian program in Yemen which faces what is considered to be one of the worst humanitarian crises ever.
On Thursday Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva presented an ambitious plan to take the South American country off of the world hunger map. “The problem is not a lack of food, it is not a lack of crops, the problem is that the people do not have enough to buy food,” Lula said in a public event in the city of Teresina. In his speech he reminded that his program to fight poverty has as a connecting axis to address the structural causes of hunger that it is not limited to just economic aid but also must have an articulated policy. For this reason, he stressed that the Bolsa Familia program is not enough and does not represent a definitive solution, but a necessary step to ensure that the wealth produced in the country is distributed more equitably.
Anywhere between 691 million and 783 million people across the globe faced hunger in 2022, according to this year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report published by five specialized agencies of the UN on Wednesday, July 12. As per the report, even with the mid-range figure of 735 million, around “122 million more people faced hunger in 2022 than in 2019, before the pandemic,” despite the fact that “hunger is no longer on the rise at the global level.” The report records that 9.2% of the world’s population faced chronic hunger in 2022, compared to 7.9% in 2019. The figure is slightly better than 2021 when it stood at 9.3%.
A recently published joint study conducted by Oxfam and Action Aid claims that the total windfall profit of the world’s 722 top companies crossed USD 1 trillion for the second consecutive year in 2022. The study notes that this figure, which is higher than the GDP of a majority of countries in the world, reflects an “obscene” and “immoral” quest for higher profits by the rich, who have exploited the global crisis of energy and food price inflation and higher interest rates in the last two years caused by multiple factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
After holding the economy hostage for months, some Republicans are going through a bit of a depressive slump. “We got rolled,” is how one Republican congressmember (Roll Call, 6/6/23) described the outcome of the debt ceiling negotiations. “It was a bad deal.” But don’t cry too much, guys! The Wall Street Journal is here to cheer you up, and remind you that, though you didn’t get all the austerity you wanted, you did get to hurt the poor a bit. Maybe not as much as you wanted, but life’s not always fair, is it? As the Journal’s editorial board (5/30/23) recently wrote: “One reason the deal is worth passing: The provisions on work and welfare are incremental progress the GOP can build on.”
On Sunday January 1, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party of Brazil (PT) gave his first speech to the Brazilian people as president at the National Congress. In the speech, he presented a brief diagnosis of the situation and conditions of the country that he will govern over for the next four years. “It’s appalling,” said Lula, about the conditions in which he receives the country from his predecessor, former president Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party, who abandoned the country and went to the US just before the inauguration. “They have emptied out the resources for health. They have dismantled the Education, Culture, Science and Technology [sectors]. They destroyed environmental protection. They left no resources for school lunch, vaccination, public security.”
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.