The number of people going hungry in the world has rocketed by 150 million since the outbreak of Covid due to war, climate chaos and economic crisis. A new United Nations (UN) report, released on Wednesday, found that as many as 828 million people faced chronic undernourishment in 2021.
This staggering increase amounts to 46 million more people from a year earlier and 150 million more from 2019. Around 2.3 billion people in the world—almost 30 percent—were “moderately” or “severely food insecure” in 2021.
Overall that’s an increase of 350 million compared to just two years before. And nearly 934 million faced the “severe” situation—which happens when people run out of food or go days without any whatsoever.
The increase in global hunger means 45 million children under the age of five suffer from wasting. It’s the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases a child’s risk of death by up to 12 times.
The UN report says the war in Ukraine is already having devastating implications for food security, particularly for people in the Global South. It explains the conflict “involving two of the biggest global producers of staple cereals, oilseeds and fertilizer, is disrupting international supply chains” and pushing up prices.
But the roots of the food crisis go much deeper than the Russian invasion. As the report explains, “This comes as supply chains are already being adversely affected by increasingly frequent extreme climate events.”
Ending world hunger by 2030 would cost £253 billion, according to a report by the UN and other research groups two years ago. The US military budget alone stood at £650 billion in 2021—and Nato members’ combined arms budgets were a staggering £1.5 trillion.
A small proportion could wipe out world hunger. Yet the US, Nato and other imperialist states are increasing military spending as rivalries increase in Ukraine and south east Asia.
One week ago a report from Wealth-X found there were 3,331 billionaires by the end of last year, up from 3,204 in 2020. Their combined wealth had surged by 17.8 percent to a record £9.9 trillion.
Wealth X said that the “the disruptive impact of the pandemic on the global economy” had in fact “reinforced many of these trends” to the concentration of wealth.
These are just two examples of how the priorities of the system aren’t shaped by human need. They’re driven by the interests of capitalist states and corporations, which compete to maximise profits and divide countries and markets in spheres of influence.
And the factors causing world hunger are getting worse. The report says it “repeatedly highlights the intensification of these major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition—conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities”.
To stop these cataclysmic crises means breaking with the system that puts profit before the needs of people and the environment. Hope lies with the revolts that we’ve seen in recent years challenging our rulers and imposing socialist solutions.