The alarming signs of growing acute food insecurity should prompt us to rethink the way we tackle hunger crises by addressing the root causes rather than simply treating the point symptoms of hunger, said the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) QU Dongyu said today. He spoke at a special side event on how to shift the humanitarian game plan to better meet people’s needs and priorities and reverse the tide of hunger across the planet. The event was held ahead of World Food Day which will be officially celebrated on October 14 this year.
Acute food insecurity is spreading and intensifying as multiple global and local shocks overlap, jeopardizing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with just 7 planting seasons to turn the tide, warned Qu.
According to the latest survey, up to 222 million people are experiencing high acute food insecurity this year – one in five of whom have so little to eat that they face an immediate threat of severe malnutrition and death. Nearly one million more people will effectively find themselves in near-famine conditions without emergency humanitarian assistance in five countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
Although the situation is dire, there is still time to turn the tide and bring those who have been left behind back from the brink of hunger, said the Director-General, stressing that investments in agriculture and agrifood systems resilient can make a difference.
Despite an increase in the overall humanitarian response, but only 8% of humanitarian funding is spent on urgently needed agricultural aid in emergencies that is essential for people’s survival, Qu noted pointing out that at least two people out of three are now acutely food insecure. are rural people, including farmers, herders, fishers and foresters. And they are particularly exposed to the impacts of extreme weather or violent conflict.
“Clearly, a new approach is needed to sustainably halt and reverse these hunger trends. It’s time to rethink and reorient. Prioritization, programming, advocacy and funding allocations must be evidence-based and guided by people’s needs and priorities,” added the Director-General.
In the midst of crisis, agriculture offers solutions, he said, stressing the need to channel more resources and funds to build the resilience of rural people and help them preserve and improve their agricultural livelihoods for provide for the needs of their families.
An effective response will require a focused and collective effort from all partners and stakeholders – the UN system, governments and local organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia, Qu stressed.
The event also saw the participation of Rein Paulsen, Director of FAO’s Office for Emergencies and Resilience; Aryn Baker, senior international correspondent for Time Magazine; Mohanna Eljabaly, Associate Executive Director for Compliance and Development of the Yemen Family Care Association (YFCA); Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of Coordination, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; and Danielle Mutone-Smith, Executive Director of USAID’s Office of Humanitarian Assistance.
Participants agreed that agriculture should be treated as a frontline humanitarian response and one of the most cost-effective long-term solutions. Supporting people and their livelihoods, addressing their needs and priorities before the peak of a crisis can effectively prevent death and starvation. Participants also discussed the need to increase investment in local food production and farmers’ resilience to future shocks.