The recent launch of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report confirms the alarming reality of increased hunger in some regions of the world, namely the Caribbean, Western Asia, and all regions of Africa, with women and people living in rural areas being the groups most affected. This is not unexpected news given the intersecting effects of multiple crises hitting countries, but the inequality that emerges tells us that the most vulnerable people are paying the highest costs.
The latest COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, and the Ukraine war have exacerbated the harsh situation in many countries. Not only are climate change and conflicts major drivers of food insecurity, but these additional factors have particularly affected the most vulnerable nations, which are already trapped by external debt and facing continuous currency depreciation. Consequently, their food import bill has become unaffordable.
ActionAid’s recent research revealed that people in vulnerable communities are paying up to ten times what they paid for commodities before the invasion of Ukraine. Recent UN statistics also confirms this.
The cost of a loaf of bread has increased by 101%, and pasta prices have risen by 119%. This surge in prices is particularly impacting women, who are struggling to meet their basic needs. Sanitary pads, for instance, have become unaffordable, with an average increase of 83%. As a result, mothers are sacrificing their own meals to feed their children, girls are reducing their food intake, and 10 out of the 14 surveyed countries are experiencing a rise in school dropouts and early child marriage rates.
I firmly believe that there has been a misstep in how the international community has tackled the issue of hunger. Agroecology has proven to be resilient, cheaper, and good for people and the environment. Yet it continues to be underfunded and dismissed by international donors.
We cannot afford to waste any more time. We cannot rely on expensive and inaccessible technological solutions, nor should we allow private corporations to dictate the course of action. By doing so, we risk repeating past mistakes and perpetuating injustice and discrimination. Instead, we must prioritize food sovereignty, the right to food, and agroecology as the fundamental pillars of the transformative food system required to ultimately eliminate hunger worldwide.