Global hunger crisis

The world is in the grip of the most devastating hunger crisis ever, with unprecedented levels of acute hunger being experienced worldwide.

Today, millions of children are facing the worst hunger crisis that the world has ever seen.

At least 345 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity, with 50 million people on the brink of starvation.

Over 35 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from wasting, which is the most visible and life-threatening form of malnutrition.

Unless action is taken now, more lives will be lost and the devastating effects on the lives of children, especially girls, today will be felt for decades to come.

What has caused the hunger crisis?

A devastating combination of factors including weather extremes, armed conflict and economic shocks such as soaring prices are together creating a food crisis of unprecedented proportions globally.

The exact causes vary from country to country, but endemic hunger and poverty are often the common factor, endangering the lives of millions of people.

  • In Haiti, severe hunger persists in Haiti due to violence, economic challenges, and climate effects, with 44% of the population experiencing crisis or emergency levels of hunger. Despite some improvement, high hunger levels continue, exacerbated by funding shortages and violence, threatening the country’s food security.
  • The deteriorating situation in the Central Sahel, characterised by rising staple prices during the lean season, insecurity, and displacement in Mali and Burkina Faso, underscores the urgent need for humanitarian aid and increased funding support to mitigate severe risks to millions in the region, particularly in Niger.
  • In the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, are still grappling with the effects of prolonged drought, conflict and high food prices – with 32.1 million projected to face acute food insecurity.
  • In South Sudan, soaring food prices, economic difficulties, subnational conflicts, potential flooding, and political tensions, exacerbated by high levels of displacement and limited humanitarian access, are expected to result in severe food insecurity, with about 7.8 million people (63% of the population), facing crisis.
  • In Sudan, the situation is desperate with 42% of the population facing acute food insecurity and 6 million people just one step away from famine.
  • Guatemala is facing a serious food security and nutrition with approximately 3.2 million people struggling due to depleted resources and high costs of supplies and fuel. The situation is exacerbated by drought and the lack of food reserves, leaving affected families even more vulnerable.

How does the hunger crisis affect girls and young women?

How the global food crisis affects women and girls.

While hunger affects everyone, children and women continue to bear the brunt of this crisis. Despite this, they remain at risk of being neglected by the wider international community.

Girls are often the first to be taken out of school, and the last to eat when food runs low.

Not only do girls and women eat last and least, and consume the least nutritious food, they also face heightened risks of gender-based violence in their homes and when they venture outside, whether this is to secure food and water or to attend school.

In the world’s worst hunger hotspots, there is evidence that the number of girls and young women who are being subjected to early and forced child marriage, gender-based violence, rape and sexual harassment is increasing. Often, they encounter these risks while embarking on long journeys to find water or food.

Acute hunger is forcing many children to drop out of school, and when they do attend, it makes it harder for them to concentrate on their lessons. As the hunger crisis worsens, we are concerned about the impact on school attendance and enrolments, and we know that girls are often the first to be taken out of school.

At the same time, it is becoming harder for girls and women to access sexual and reproductive health services.

When food is scarce, households often put off buying sexual and reproductive supplies such as contraceptives or menstrual health products, meaning girls’ menstrual health needs are also increasingly neglected.

Acute hunger is forcing many children to drop out of school, and when they do attend, it makes it harder for them to concentrate on their lessons. As the hunger crisis worsens, we are concerned about the impact on school attendance and enrolments, and we know that girls are often the first to be taken out of school.

Women and child-headed households and girls and women with disabilities face disproportionately higher barriers to accessing food, particularly in communities where families have been forced to flee their homes.

How is girls’ education affected by the hunger crisis?

Food crises can have devastating consequences for girls’ education. Already less likely to attend school than boys, when families are hungry, girls are increasingly called upon to care for younger siblings so parents can work or seek food.

All too often, they are forced to miss or drop out of school, damaging their future prospects and placing them at greater risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices such as early marriage or female genital mutilation/cutting.

How can the hunger crisis be tackled?

Unless action is taken now, more lives will be lost and the devastating effects on the lives of children, especially girls, will be felt for decades to come.

We urgently need more funding to save lives. Our target is substantially underfunded in a context where needs are going up.

Plan International calls on all donors, governments, and key stakeholders to act urgently to save lives by:

Urgently pledging and disbursing new additional funds towards the USD $23 billion needed (according to the latest figures from the WFP) to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs in the world’s worst hunger hotspots and pull 50 million people from the brink of famine.

Prioritising gender and age sensitive responses to address the gendered impacts of hunger, including funding specific programmes that address child protection, gender-based violence, girls’ access to education and sexual and reproductive health services, child, early or forced marriage and sexual abuse and exploitation in food insecure contexts.

Advancing humanitarian diplomacy efforts to facilitate humanitarian access and enhance prospects of peace in conflict-affected hunger hotspots, with conflict being the main driver of hunger.

What is Plan International doing to respond to the hunger crisis?

Plan International is working in some of the world’s hungriest places to support communities which have been devastated by this crisis, especially girls.

We are prioritising eight countries where we are particularly worried about the consequences of hunger – Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Haiti.

With support from donors, Plan International has been able to make a difference in some of the worst hunger hotspots in the world. Examples include:

  • Haiti – Plan International is responding to the crisis affecting the country, delivering cash transfers and hygiene kits to help save lives. The organisation is working in the South East and North East regions of the country to provide nutrition, protection, and gender awareness support
  • Kenya – We are implementing a school feeding programme, which has been running in Kilifi County for nearly two years, making sure children get a hot meal – and therefore keep coming to class.
  • Ethiopia – Plan International’s cash and voucher assistance programme is providing crucial support to families who have lost their livelihoods due to severe drought. It helps meet their essential needs, including food, education, and livestock recovery, offering a flexible solution in times of crisis.
  • Somalia – Plan International is supporting children who have been forced to flee their homes with their families, with direct cash transfers and access to water. The multi-purpose cash assistance is being distributed with the support of local partners to help families meet their basic needs such as food, water, and health care.
  • South Sudan – We are providing life-saving school meals, enabling children to stay in school, and cash transfers so that families can buy food and other critical supplies.
  • Burkina Faso – Plan International’s school gardening clubs are providing children with not only valuable agricultural skills but also access to nutritious meals, encouraging families to send their children to school despite the hunger crisis and conflict in the region.
  • Niger – Plan International’s renewable energy programme enables women to process crops, establish businesses, and generate income while granting the entire village access to electricity and machinery. Through this effort, Plan International is combatting food insecurity and elevating the livelihoods of communities affected by the climate crisis in the country.
  • Mali – Supporting schools in Gao region with hot meals, infrastructure and cooking equipment with the aim of increasing children’s attendance at school and ensuring that children’s nutritional needs are being met in an area which is currently experiencing acute food insecurity.

School gardens support girls to stay in school and eat healthy meals

In Burkina Faso, green-fingered girls are getting an education while learning useful crop-growing skills.