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On World Hunger Day, Caritas Internationalis urges long-term sustainable solutions to avert the risk of an unprecedented food crisis

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This World Hunger Day (28th May), Caritas Internationalis denounces the dramatic rise in hunger due to the climate crisis, the impact of COVID-19, and conflicts, particularly highlighting how the war in Ukraine is having dire consequences on the entire globe, especially regarding food insecurity.

Therefore, Caritas Confederation calls on governments and key stakeholders to engage at all levels and urges the implementation of sustainable recovery strategies that build on addressing the impacts of climate change and conflicts in order to enhance the resilience of the food supply chain and avoid hunger spikes.

Across the globe, around 276 million people face acute food insecurity, while 811 million people still go to bed on an empty stomach. Across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa regions, many millions of people are facing drought and famine conditions, and an estimated 15-16 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are in need of immediate food assistance because of the drought. In Venezuela, where child malnutrition rose to 26 per cent during the Covid-19 pandemic, 9.3 million people are food insecure, and 96 per cent of the population live in poverty, with less than $3 a day. In Syria, more than 55% of the population is considered food insecure. The number of malnourished Syrian children – more than 6.5 million – has increased by seven per cent in the past year alone.

Caritas Confederation implements a number of community-led programmes and initiatives worldwide, particularly in the Global South, to address the nexus of multiple drivers of hunger, including poverty, socio-political instability, war, access to decent work opportunities, injustice and climate change.

Local and national Caritas have worked on the training of farmers on agroecology, and the growth of local community economies to help cope with factors that undermine food security and social cohesion. For example, in Burkina Faso, to assist the more than 2.2 million that have gone hungry due to conflict and extreme weather conditions, Caritas Burkina Faso has been providing the affected with food and access to social and economic services to enhance inclusion. The local Caritas has also been facilitating access to information and services for smallholders and other value chain actors in order to improve the production and processing of sustainable products and nutritious food.

In Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, Caritas has helped organise and support a number of microfinancing initiatives such as community kitchen garden projects, fisheries, beehives, as well as pig and goat farming.

“To avert the imminent risk of an unprecedented global food crisis, there is an urgent need for long-term sustainable solutions and political will and determination, addressing the roots of our unjust food system that triggers hunger,” says Caritas Internationalis General Secretary, Aloysius John. He also highlights the central role local communities can play in creating change and overcoming the issues connected with food security and world hunger. “A world without hunger is possible provided people are motivated and encouraged to become active players in food production,” he adds.

In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis highlights that “[…] millions of people suffer and die from hunger. At the same time, tons of food are thrown away. This constitutes a genuine scandal. Hunger is criminal; food is an inalienable right.” Recalling these words, on World Hunger Day, Caritas Internationalis urges the world leaders and policy-makers to:

– Allocate more funds to programmes that enhance community resilience in the longer term in order to tackle different drivers of hunger, including conflict, environmental degradation, and bad governance systems.

– Strengthen inclusive policy dialogues and transparency on structural drivers of hunger. This response should be coordinated to provide assistance to the local structural systems.

– Give priority to programmes that holistically support the poorest and the marginalized, including smallholder farmers and include the rights of the poor in all discussions. It is also crucial to include meaningful participation of local producers and consumers, especially women, who are responsible for 60 to 80% of food production in the developing countries, in policymaking and implementation at the local levels.

– Promote the adoption of sustainable practices in the food system, and scale up ecological and sustainable farming. Investing in food systems’ transformation, especially in agroecology, could make nations more resilient to geopolitical shocks that accelerate hunger.

– Implement sustainable recovery strategies that build on addressing impacts of climate change and conflicts in order to enhance the resilience of the food supply chain and avoid hunger spikes.