Dave chats with Baptists World Aid Mel Lipsett on World Refugee Day.

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.’

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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.