Malnourished boy Hassan Merzam Muhammad lies on a bed at his family's hut in Abs district of Hajjah province, Yemen November 23, 2020. Picture taken November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Eissa Alragehi NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

The main causes of global hunger in the past year were the increasingly serious effects of climate change and the increasing number of armed conflicts. This emerges from Welthungerhilfe’s 2021 annual report, which was published on Tuesday. According to this, around 811 million people worldwide are currently suffering from hunger.

According to the report, even before the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, food prices around the world rose by 28 percent last year. The situation has worsened due to the war in Ukraine.

“The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is now acting like a renewed fire accelerator,” said Welthungerhilfe President Marlehn Thieme on Tuesday when the report was presented. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, people struggled with soaring food prices. If, as in the case of almost two billion people worldwide, you have to survive on just three dollars a day, then it means catastrophe if bread suddenly doubles in price, said Thieme.

According to her, the situation has worsened, particularly in the Horn of Africa. Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. “Almost 17 million people no longer know how to feed themselves,” said Thieme.

At the G7 summit in Elmau, the leading Western industrialized countries pledged to provide a further 4.5 billion US dollars for global food security. Instead, however, the world community needs an additional 14 billion US dollars to actually free 500 million people from hunger by 2030, as promised by the G7 countries, explained Thieme.

The President of Welthungerhilfe referred to the first cautious estimates that another 50 million people worldwide could be at risk of starvation due to the shortage of grain in the wake of the Ukraine war. The Secretary General of the aid organization, Mathias Mogge, described the food export bans imposed by more and more countries as an additional danger. “This leads to a further shortage,” says Mogge.

According to him, another cause of global hunger is the corona pandemic, which has led to additional national debt in many countries. One should not expect that the hunger problem would be over if Russia lifted the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea, he said.

Currently, around 22 million tons of grain cannot be exported from Ukraine. The effects of this together with the consequences of climate change can be observed using the example of South Sudan. Because of the increased food prices and the high transport costs, 1.7 million starving people had to be excluded from the distribution of food because there was no money for their care, says Mogge. 7.7 million people in the country are in an “acute hunger crisis”, 1.3 million children are malnourished. Increasingly, schools have had to be pulled out of school feeding programs because of insufficient funding, he said.

According to the Welthungerhilfe annual report, the situation is dramatic not only in South Sudan but also in Yemen and Afghanistan. After the radical Islamist Taliban took power there again last year, Welthungerhilfe is continuing its work. A total of 588,000 people in the country were supported by the aid organization in 2021, with a financial volume of 6.69 million euros available. After the Taliban took power, most of the organization’s development projects, which focused on emergency relief on the ground, were suspended.

As an example, the report mentions the provision of foodstuffs such as flour, oil, legumes and salt to 6,500 vulnerable families in Nangarhar province. Last November, aid was extended to 10,500 families. In Afghanistan, more than half of the population is dependent on emergency aid.

The numerous emergencies are a “wake-up call to finally step up efforts to combat climate change,” says the report. In the words of Secretary General Mogge, the increased food prices “are hitting those who are already among the poorest the hardest”. Millions of people are “on the brink of starvation because families have no resources left”.

Looking back over the past decade, the organization, which supported around 16.6 million people in 36 countries last year, draws a sobering conclusion: Continuous improvements in the fight against hunger were recorded up until 2014, but the trend has reversed since then. According to the aid organization, extreme poverty, child mortality and malnutrition are on the rise.

In total, Welthungerhilfe funded 526 foreign projects last year with a volume of 259.9 million euros. The majority of the funding volume – 190.5 million euros – flowed into projects in Africa. In addition to the countries on the Horn of Horn of Africa, Mali and Niger are also priorities.

In the second year of the corona pandemic, the willingness of Germans to donate has grown again. Last year, Welthungerhilfe received 77.5 million euros in donations. That was eleven percent more than in the previous year. If you add the grants from public donors in the amount of 229 million euros, then you get the highest result for 2021 that Welthungerhilfe has achieved so far.

According to Mogge, the draft budget for the Ministry of Development for 2023, which earmarks fewer funds for fighting hunger, is being viewed “very critically”.