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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Global food crisis: 5 things you need to know

Women in a row carrying food bags on their head
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

You have probably heard about the global food crisis that is affecting millions of people worldwide. But what are the main drivers of this global food insecurity? What countries are affected? And how is the EU helping?

Here are 5 key things you need to know about the current global food crisis and the EU’s humanitarian response.

1.  The number of people who require food assistance is at a record high, with more than 200 million people acutely food insecure

There are currently at least 205 million people acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance (Global Report on Food Crises 2022 mid-year update). This is the highest level on record, and double the figure of 2016.

This is why we are substantially stepping up our EU humanitarian food assistance, with approximately €770 million allocated for food and nutrition assistance in 2022 so far. We work to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for the most hungry and vulnerable people affected by the global food crisis.

Since 2010, the EU has been rolling out its humanitarian policy on food assistance. Our funding has helped over 100 million people lacking access to food.

In 2021, 25% of the EU’s annual humanitarian aid budget was used to provide emergency food assistance and nutrition. In 2022, the share is likely to be even higher, given the severity and scale of the current food crises. This makes the EU one of the major donors in this area.

2. The main drivers of food insecurity are conflict, economic shocks, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic

Mother sitting on a bed with her child on her lap
© UNICEF, 2022 (photographer: Sebastian Rich). All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

The current levels of food insecurity are a result of a number of converging shocks.

Since the first publication of the Global Report on Food Crises, conflict/insecurity remained the first driver of food insecurity globally.

Economic downturns are another relevant factor contributing to higher food insecurity. The world is still suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, including on supply chains, inflation and purchasing power.

In addition, climate events such as drought and floods continue to hinder availability of and access to food for many people.

Some examples are the drought in the Horn of Africa or the recent floods in Pakistan, where the EU has stepped up its food assistance to help those left with no access to safe and nutritious food.

In 2022, food insecurity has been exacerbated by the direct effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the global economy, including on food prices, global supply of grains as well as on the price of energy and fertilizers.

3. Russia’s war against Ukraine is exacerbating global food insecurity

Russia’s war against Ukraine came at a time when the world had not yet recovered from the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy.

The Russian invasion has caused a spike in food prices, as Russian troops systematically occupied and shelled Ukrainian arable land and agricultural equipment. Both Russia and Ukraine are major food exporters: together, they are responsible for 1/3 of the global cereal supply, 80% of global sunflower oil, and 30% of wheat exports.

Even though prices have recently been decreasing thanks to the EU Solidarity Lanes Initiative and the Black Sea Grain Initiative, they remain around 7% higher than before the war and markets are still highly volatile.

The war is also having an adverse impact on the prices of energy and fertilisers, whose increase continues to exert an upward pressure on the prices of food

Low-income countries with already high levels of food insecurity and highly depend on grain and oil imports from Russia and Ukraine are suffering disproportionately from the effects of this war.

The timely and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance is at risk due to the simultaneous and sudden increase in needs and operational costs caused by the war in Ukraine. UN agencies are warning of a worsening situation in the next couple of years.

While we continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine (including for food and nutrition assistance), the global food crisis remains a priority for the EU.

In June we adopted a comprehensive Team Europe Global Food Security Response, committing the EU and its Member States to coordinated action against food insecurity.

Our response is backed by a financial package of over €7.7 billion until 2024. This will be further complemented by the Team Europe response from our Member States. 

4. 6 countries are at risk of famine

Tajwar standing in front with other people cueing in the background
© WFP/Ziauddin Safi

The latest Hunger Hotspot report published in September, reports that the following 6 countries are at risk of famine: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel region, the Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic remain of very high concern. In the latest edition, the alert is extended to the Central African Republic and Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, 93% of people did not have enough food to eat in March. EU humanitarian funding supports the World Food Programme to organise food distributions, along with midday snacks for children at school or malnutrition prevention and treatment for mothers and children.

We don’t forget the hunger crisis in the Sahel. Never have so many millions of people faced starvation in the region where Nigeria is located. The EU is providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to protect the most vulnerable.

In Ethiopia, the drought is causing water scarcity and food insecurity. It is already considered the worst drought in a generation, with increasing malnutrition rates among children and displacement of people searching for food.

In Somalia, it is estimated that already this month, famine will become a reality. Due to the drought, millions of people are facing starvation and death. At least 7.1 million people are experiencing the food crisis in the country. The EU is providing €61.5 million in humanitarian funding for projects on food and nutrition assistance, as well as other intervention areas.

In the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, the EU is implementing a 3-year project to prevent malnutrition and provide life-saving aid to those already malnourished.

In Yemen, millions of people are destitute and hungry, and half of the population is food insecure. Our cash assistance is helping them buy the food they need.

5. The EU is at the forefront of the fight against global hunger

The EU is one of the main donors of humanitarian assistance, including for emergency food and nutrition aid. The EU provides the most vulnerable people with essential and nutritious food items during critical times. Our support is targeted and context-specific, depending on the needs of specific groups, such as children under 5 years old.

A significant part of our food assistance is provided in the form of cash transfers. This is because sometimes there is enough food in shops and markets, but the victims of disasters do not have money to purchase it.

When this happens, the EU prefers helping vulnerable people get access to the food they need by giving them money to buy it. This is often more efficient and effective than shipping sacks of rice or flour across the globe.

In addition, the EU has just announced €600 million of European Development Fund to finance immediate food aid, production and resilience of food systems in the most vulnerable countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. Out of this amount, €150 million is for humanitarian aid to deliver emergency food assistance.

Story by Jaime Camacho Garcia and Giedre Dudaite, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Publication date: 14/10/2022