G7 a critical opportunity to fight famine and prevent life-threatening hunger

29 March 2023

As the global hunger crisis continues to escalate, Plan International is calling on leaders at the upcoming G7 summit in Japan to take urgent action to save lives.

The severe food crisis is affecting millions of children like Martha, 15, South Sudan.
The severe food crisis is affecting millions of children like Martha, 15, from South Sudan.

At least 349 million people across 82 countries – a record-breaking number – are facing acute food insecurity, with 50 million people on the brink of starvation. For them, the promise of sufficient, safe and nutritious food remains alarmingly out of reach.

The upcoming G7 Hiroshima Summit in Japan provides G7 leaders with a vital opportunity to take life-saving action – and it is an opportunity that must not be missed.

Plan International offices in G7 countries around the globe have written an open letter to G7 member states warning that instead of achieving the goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, we are now facing the worst global hunger crisis in history ‘fuelled by conflict, economic inequality and pressures, and climate shocks’.

For 15-year-old Martha living in the Lakes State of South Sudan hunger is a daily reality. “There are times when I feel so hungry that I think going to school would be a waste,” she says.

The severe food crisis in South Sudan is affecting millions of children like Martha who have relied on lunches provided by their schools to get them through the day.

At Martha’s school, Plan International used to run a school feeding programme with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) but these have faced funding shortages, in part due to rising food prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine.

Girls and women bear the brunt of the crisis

“My father sometimes asks me to stay at home and help him look for food. He also asks my younger sister to stay at home instead of going to school and spending the whole day hungry,” says Martha, the oldest of seven children.

Only Martha and her sister are able to go to school as her father can’t afford to pay the school fees for all of his children. “My family are farmers, but this time we cultivated late. We planted in April but the crops died because it didn’t rain. We planted again in June, but we are still waiting.”

Martha and her sister’s story is sadly not an uncommon one. As Plan International has written to G7 leaders, at this moment over 30 million children in the 15 worst-affected countries suffer from acute malnutrition, threatening their ability to survive.

Malnutrition is particularly dangerous for children under five and adolescent girls and young women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Adolescent girls and young women are at increased risks of miscarriage, maternal mortality and giving birth to low birthweight babies, thus passing on the intergenerational effects of malnutrition to their children.

As a new report from Plan International demonstrates, girls and women continue to be disproportionately impacted in this global crisis, exacerbating gender inequalities.

Not only do they eat last and least, and consume the least nutritious food, but they also face heightened risks of gender-based violence in their homes and in their efforts outside to earn an income and secure food, water and essential supplies.

“January was the last month that I ate two meals,” says Martha. “We eat one meal a day now. We eat posho (corn meal) with a sauce and salt. During this time of drought I feel hungrier. I feel weak. When I’m doing something I can’t manage it like before. I also get stomach aches and headaches. It feels bad.”

G7 a vital opportunity to build on the work already done

The G7 conference comes at a time when global focus on the hunger crisis is growing. Plan International wishes to acknowledge the commitments in response to the crisis outlined in the 2021 G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Crises Compact and the work of the Global Alliance on Food Security.

However as the hunger crisis has worsened, the letter to G7 leaders points out that despite these efforts, ‘global action is currently falling significantly short of what is required to pull millions back from the brink of famine and ensure hard-won development and gender equity gains are not reversed.’

Therefore, Plan International calls on G7 leaders to take the following actions to save millions of lives and prevent devastating reversals in gender equality:

  • Urgently pledge and disburse new additional funds towards the USD $23 billion needed (according to the latest figure 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.
  • Prioritise 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. This also includes support for efforts to strengthen disaggregation of food security data by sex, age, disability and diversity.
  • Advance 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.
  • Help build the resilience of communities living in fragile contexts by:
    • Strengthening early warning systems and anticipatory action ahead of predictable shocks like droughts or floods.
    • Investing at scale in gender-responsive social protection to address hunger’s knock-on impacts on the rights of girls to education, protection and health, including through school meal programmes.
    • Bolstering support for livelihood programs like agricultural support, pasture and livestock management, and skills training to increase economic opportunities.
  • Publicly report on their efforts to implement the commitments outlined in the 2021 G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Crises Compact.

Letter on Global Hunger Crisis to G7 Member States


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