The global hunger crisis – an intergenerational dialogue

14 October 2022

“Zero Hunger” by 2030 was one of the 17 sustainable development goals, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. This includes achieving food security and improved nutrition, as well as promoting sustainable agriculture.

However, the world is nowhere near that goal.

Conflict and violence are major causes of humanitarian needs. The situation is increasingly getting worse due to natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change and environmental deterioration.

Climate-related events were the second main cause of food insecurity in 2018, with 29 million people in climate-affected countries acutely food insecure. Since the early 1990s, the frequency of weather extremes, like droughts and floods, has more than doubled, which can affect food insecurity when it comes to both availability and access. Droughts, for instance, reduce livestock and agricultural production which can threaten local food security, cause widespread human displacement, and create or prolong conflicts.

According to a report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world, up to 828 million people – more than one in ten of the world’s population – still go to bed hungry every night. A record 345 million people are now experiencing acute food insecurity, up from 135 million in 2019. A total of 50 million people in 45 countries are on the edge of famine.

Famine is preventable and has no place in the 21st century.

On the occasion of World Food Day 2022, two team members of the Plan International EU Office representing two different generations, Serap Altinisik and Ngoc Diep Nguyen, engage in a dialogue to reflect on the current global hunger crisis.

Serap: In your opinion, what are the main issues surrounding the global food insecurity?

Diep: To begin with, we should all be aware of the fact that the right to food has been recognised in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. Fundamentally, the roots of the problem of hunger and malnutrition are not a lack of food but a lack of access to available food by substantial parts of the global population, largely due to poverty. Although more than enough food is produced to feed the entire world, as many as 829 million people still go hungry. It’s all about the allocation of resources.

Serap: I absolutely agree. Recognising that food is a human right is a vital step in supporting children and girls, in particular, who are deeply affected by the global hunger crisis. That is why, it is crucial to avoid diverting funds from the hunger crisis to other emergencies. We need to safeguard existing funding and provide additional resources.

The recent €150 million top-up of the EU 2023 annual humanitarian aid budget by the European Commission falls short by €750 million. With multiple crises happening around the world at the same time, it is clear that we need more EU funding.

Diep: Apart from adequate funding, the response must have a specific focus on children, girls and youth as they are most vulnerable to negative coping mechanisms for survival adopted by their families. Girls in Haiti, for example, are being forced to sell their bodies in order to help bring home food or money. Difficult circumstances also push many girls into marriage despite being underage. Unfortunately, this is taking away the girls’ right to education and to reach their full potential as well as to break the cycle of poverty. Not only do girls and young women deserve to have fulfilling lives, but also investing in their nutrition has significant returns to improving household nutrition and overall human development capacity for a country.

Serap: The recent and first ever Youth Action Plan (YAP) by the EU for its external action – with large contributions of Plan International EU – is a great step in recognising the essential role of young people as agents of change while also contributing to protect children in armed conflict, ensure access to safe and quality education during humanitarian crises, as well as increase support for young women and girls in fragile and conflict-affected countries in line with the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

Diep: Approaches like the YAP go towards the right direction so I sincerely hope that these decisions will positively affect those who need it most — especially in the context of the global hunger crisis. Statements are nice, young people have heard many of them, but very often the follow-up actions do not reflect the commitments made. We must ensure that children, girls and young people are not fobbed off with empty words in the end.

Projections by a UN report are that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030 – in other words, 8 percent of the world population.

We need to keep in mind that food is not a privilege.

Food is a human right, and it’s time that it is seen and realised as one.

  • Person, Human, Skin
    Ngoc Diep Nguyen

    Personal Assistant to the Head of Office, Plan International EU

  • Serap Altinisik

    Plan International EU Office Head of Office | EU Representative, Plan International EU