Lodi News-Sentinel

Soaring inflation drives cuts to global hunger-relief programs

- Mike Dorning

A shortage of funding coupled with a surge in inflation is forcing hungerreli­ef programs across the globe to cut back on services just as the world’s poorest need it most, creating a situation that will erode human welfare and possibly plant the seeds of political instabilit­y.

Stresses on internatio­nal food aid are happening both at the government level and for organizati­ons including the World Food Programme, the group that just two year ago won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its hungerfigh­ting efforts. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further strained the global food market, which was already reeling from the pandemic and climate change. Wheat futures, for example, have surged more than 50% this year, making the grain less affordable for use in staples like bread.

Children in parts of Kyrgyzstan now only get subsidized meals during school two or three days a week, instead of five. In Somalia, the World Food Programme halved the numbers of schools covered by its meal program. In Syria, the aid group recently cut the daily rations it supplies by a third, down to 1,000 calories a day.

The World Food Programme forecasts that in the 81 countries where it works another 47 million people will suffer acute hunger by the end of the year — a 17% increase — if the war in Ukraine continues.

“When you are talking to people, they can’t cope anymore — they are really at a breaking point,” said Corinne Fleischer, regional director of the Middle East and North Africa for the World Food Programme.

Fleischer expects that in her region alone an additional 6 million people will become food insecure over the next six months if the war in Ukraine continues.

“We are getting very worried because in 2011 this is how the Arab Spring started,” she said. “Hunger drives conflict, and conflict drives hunger.”

Global hunger has been surging since the start of the pandemic. Last year saw a 25% jump in the number of people so deprived of food that it posed an immediate threat to their lives or livelihood­s, according to estimates from the Global Network Against Food Crises, an alliance of internatio­nal aid organizati­ons.

A combinatio­n of higher shipping costs, energy inflation, fertilizer shortages, extreme weather and labor tightness means it’s more difficult to produce food. And Covid’s lasting economic blow made it harder for the world’s poor to afford adequate diets as prices soar. The war is now tipping the situation into a full-blown crisis. Russia and Ukraine are major wheat, fertilizer and food producers, so hostilitie­s are severely disrupting output and delivery from Black Sea ports.

Going back to the days of the French Revolution, food insecurity has sent people into the streets demanding better conditions. In 2008 and 2011, soaring prices triggered food riots in more than 30 nations across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly when and where social unrest will occur — and sometimes even when conditions seem ripe, it doesn’t materializ­e.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States