Some of the world’s poorest areas are still on the brink of hunger despite billions of dollars in U.S. food and humanitarian aid.
Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said 200 million people in 53 countries are in the third, or “crisis,” phase of hunger.
Hunger “prevails so intensely that lives and livelihoods are at risk,” Power said at a CSIS event. “Things will get worse,” she said.
Climate crises around the world — from record heat waves in Europe to extended drought in Africa — and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which cut off wheat, corn, and vegetable oil supplies, are already adding tens of millions to the “crisis” classification, say World Food Program, USAID, FAO, and other officials.
There are evidence that areas are entering the fourth “emergency” phase and beyond, said Power.
Power calls the fifth and final level of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification scheme “catastrophe.”
“There’s a word for when catastrophic hunger is widespread: and that word is famine,” she said. The UN secretary-general predicts numerous famines this year and worse in 2023. Global food crisis How can we prevent a worldwide food crisis?
Millions of youngsters are wasting because they have no food, indicating that world hunger is growing.
Their bodies are consuming their last energy. Many are too weak to eat, Power said.
The sight of wasted youngsters in South Sudan left Eleanor Crook Foundation CEO William Moore distraught.
“Severe wasting is a state of multiple organ failures, loss of brain mass, loss of vision,” he said. “Your hair becomes brittle and your skin starts to peel … You become exhausted, eventually unable to move.”
These youngsters can’t be given conventional diet, worsening the condition. Moore, Power, and UNICEF Director Catherine Russell promote ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), small packets containing milk powder, vegetable oil, peanuts, sugar, and micronutrients.
Power stated Monday that the U.S. would give $200 million to UNICEF to purchase and distribute RUTF. Eleanor Crook Foundation, CSID, and others will contribute $50 million.
Power says food contributions alone aren’t enough to end hunger.
She added Ukraine should be allowed to transport grain, Russia should cease restricting fertilizer exports, and African farmers should be permitted to cultivate better and improve productivity.
Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN are likely to meet again this week to enable Ukraine to export wheat and grain via Odesa and Mykolaiv. The stakes are high.
African and Middle Eastern countries imported Ukrainian grain before the conflict. After years of drought and falling agricultural productivity, the people need imports more than ever, but a Russian blockade keeps them out.
“Since the war began, the Russian military has destroyed and mined Ukrainian farmland, bombed agricultural storage and processing facilities, and effectively blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports,” Power added. While people go hungry, trillions of calories are stored. This year’s summer crop of 50 million tons of grain sown by Ukrainian farmers wearing flak jackets and brandishing demining equipment had nowhere to be stored.
Russia’s fertilizer export restrictions may be just as bad for African famine as the grain embargo, said Power. Antony Blinken termed the constraints a war weapon, and Power agreed.
“Russia is the world’s largest exporter of fertilizer, but starting in November last year, Russia began to restrict some of its supply to global markets, contributing to a near tripling of fertilizer prices over the past year,” she said. “With higher fertilizer prices, farmers can only afford to buy less fertilizer, meaning that they plant less, meaning smaller harvests and smaller future incomes. Farmers in Africa, especially, will be forced to cut back on fertilizer at the worst possible time, leading to a predicted shortfall in their harvests of 20 percent worth some $11 billion.”
Yara International gave 40,000 metric tons of fertilizer to African countries this year, and Power said Wednesday that the business would give 20,000 additional tons, which USAID will distribute to 100,000 farmers.
The U.S. helps Ethiopian farmers optimize their fertilizer by utilizing satellites. Power claimed farmers there reduced fertilizer waste by 80% and increased yields. Now, the U.S. is helping Niger, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambian farmers.
In the Horn of Africa, farmers might face a fourth straight drought amid an unusually wet season.
In Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, at least 7 million animals have perished, Power added. There’s not enough water or vegetation for them.
Power announced a $1.2 billion boost in U.S. emergency financing for Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. She said “hunger can’t be fought with food alone” and the global community must invest in long-term solutions like U.S. fertilizer initiatives.
In the 1980s, global investments in Africa’s long-term agricultural productivity averaged $20 billion per year, but by 2006, that had decreased to $5 billion. While humanitarian help saves lives, it doesn’t make nations more resilient, she added.
Power, Russell, and Moore all urged vital humanitarian contributions.
Moore heard someone on the group that saw wasting children in South Sudan remark, “I don’t understand how there could be a God with suffering like that”