ROME – The world faces an exponential increase in hunger fuelled by the climate crisis if urgent global action to help communities adapt to climatic shocks and stresses is ignored, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns ahead of World Food Day, on 16 October.
A WFP analysis shows that a 2°C rise in average global temperature from pre-industrial levels will see a staggering 189 million additional people in the grips of hunger. Vulnerable communities, a vast majority of whom rely on agriculture, fishing, and livestock and, who contribute the least to the climate crisis, will continue to bear the brunt of the impacts with limited means to cushion the blow.
“Large swathes of the globe, from Madagascar to Honduras to Bangladesh, are in the throes of a climate crisis that is now a daily reality for millions. The climate crisis is fuelling a food crisis,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
Tens of thousands of lives are at risk in southern Madagascar, one of the potentially many places in the world currently where famine-like conditions have been driven by climate change. Consecutive droughts have pushed nearly 1.1 million people into severe hunger. Nearly 14,000 of them are in famine-like conditions and this number is expected to double by the end of the year. Up to 63 percent of people in the south of the country are subsistence farmers who have seen their livelihoods collapse, and their only source of food dry up, due to drought.
The climate crisis: a threat multiplier
When coupled with conflict, the climate crisis exacerbates existing vulnerabilities, magnifying the damage, destruction and despair. Extreme climate events in conflict-affected areas destroy the already meagre resources at the disposal of families and even hamper humanitarian efforts reaching communities. In Afghanistan, severe drought tied to conflict and economic hardship has left a third of the population reeling with hunger.
“If this is the new normal, we can’t keep lurching from disaster to disaster. We need to go beyond just picking up the pieces after the crisis hits, and instead manage climate risks so they no longer have the power to destroy the food security of vulnerable communities. This is where WFP’s unique expertise comes in,” added Beasley.
Manage risks rather than disasters
WFP is helping communities adapt to the changing climate that threatens their ability to grow food, secure incomes and withstand shocks. It has supported 39 governments, helping them realize their national climate ambitions.
In 2020, WFP implemented climate risk management solutions in 28 countries, benefiting more than six million people so that they are better prepared for climate shocks and stresses and can recover faster. WFP has mobilized nearly US$300 million for climate action in the past decade.
In Bangladesh, WFP supports communities affected by heavy monsoons and flooding with cash assistance ahead of disasters so that they are able to buy food and medicine, protect critical assets, and transport livestock and families to safe places. By using early warning data to trigger action, WFP empowered households to prepare for flood impacts and prevent losses and damages. This reduced the cost of the emergency response by over half.
WFP, working with partners, has protected 1.5 million people in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, and the Gambia from catastrophic drought events with climate risk insurance, through the African Risk Capacity Replica Initiative.
“Conflict is plunging millions into hunger today, but the climate crisis has the potential to dwarf conflict as the main cause of hunger tomorrow. We urgently need to invest in early warning systems and climate adaptation and resilience programmes to avert this looming humanitarian disaster,” said Beasley.