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CEO BLOG: Waking Up to the Global Hunger Crisis

United we can fight hunger.

The world is slowly waking up to the reality that we are facing a global hunger crisis, one that threatens the survival of millions of people and heightens the risk of new conflicts and refugee crises.

Our teams on the ground are extremely concerned, as they are seeing an alarming escalation of needs. I am especially concerned about the Horn of Africa, where it has been reported that one person is dying every 48 seconds. Our Director of Programmes, Anne Reitsema, says it plainly: “This is a huge crisis and the whole humanitarian community is struggling to draw attention to what is happening.”

Why has hunger reached such extreme levels?

A devastating combination of crises all over the world have created a perfect storm. A new report from WFP (World Food Programme) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) states that an all-time high of up to 49 million people in 46 countries could be at risk of falling into famine-like conditions, unless they receive immediate life- and livelihoods-saving assistance. Here’s some of the reasons why:

Historic droughts are killing livestock and crops and drying up water sources. The Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in 40 years; the number of people experiencing extreme hunger in the region has more than doubled since last year – from over 10 million to more than 23 million today. Extreme weather events, including floods in South Sudan, have forced people to abandon their homes, preventing crops from being planted or harvested.

Global conflict has increased in 2022, as violence and conflict remain the primary drivers for acute hunger. The conflict in Ukraine has triggered a global food price crisis, with countries dependent on grain exports from Russia and Ukraine facing scarcities and sharply higher costs. Food prices are up 30% since a year ago, in part due to supply chain disruptions, drought, and rapid inflation.

Economic and political turbulence has made the funding environment more challenging for humanitarian organizations, with funding cuts coinciding with rising operating costs. For example, the soaring costs of food and fuel have led the WFP to suspend aid to 1.7 million in South Sudan due to increased costs and lack of funding, at a time when they need it most. The cost of Plumpy’Nut has risen significantly—it’s a nutrient-rich food we use to treat malnourished children, but this price hike will reduce the number of children who can be helped.

“People here have very little to eat. There is a lot of goodwill on their part, but the situation is simply awful: people have been displaced from their homes due to insecurity, and they no longer have access to their homes or their fields. They’ve had to leave everything behind.” Marie-Anne, Nutrition Supervisor, DR Congo

What needs to be done?

Millions of families need urgent and coordinated humanitarian aid to survive. I can tell you that Medair is working with our partners and rapidly adapting our responses, scaling up wherever we can to save as many lives as possible. Our teams are responding in 9 of the 12 most affected countries—those with the highest percentage of people in acute food crisis (IPC Level 3 or higher).

In the Horn of Africa, Medair has expanded its emergency activities in Somalia involving nutrition, health, and water supply. On top of our 12 Medair-supported health facilities, we have 36 mobile clinics that are now bringing life-saving nourishment and medical care to dozens of camps and rural villages.

We have also launched a new emergency response in northern Kenya to help the most vulnerable families in Marsabit County, an area larger than Switzerland. We aim to send nutrition outreach services into the most remote communities where neglected families need urgent attention. Our teams will provide screening and treatment for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women suffering from acute malnutrition.

Medair delivers a proven treatment model called CMAM (Community Management of Acute Malnutrition) that enables malnourished children and vulnerable women to recover rapidly.  In 2021, we treated 66,747 malnourished children and women and 93% of them were discharged as cured. Our teams also work to address the underlying causes of malnutrition to protect against future hunger crises.

Fatima, two, received treatment for malnutrition in Yemen.

In Yemen, we have two mobile caravans that provide free health and nutrition services to thousands of people living in camps and nearby communities. Fatima, age two, is one of the children we reached.

Her mother told us: “I used to cry for my baby. She was so weak and thin. I couldn’t afford to travel to the hospital, and we didn’t have the money to buy medicine. I couldn’t breastfeed her properly, as I didn’t eat well for days myself. When I heard about Medair’s free health and nutrition caravans, I had a glimmer of hope.

“Immediately I took Fatima and went to see them. They have taken great care of her ever since, and even came to my village to monitor her situation. Six weeks later, I can’t believe that my girl is walking and standing. I can’t thank them enough. If they were not here, I might have lost my child.”

United we can fight hunger

Even in a crisis like this, I feel hopeful. I feel hope when I learn about how our actions can impact the lives of girls like Fatima. I see signs of hope in our country programmes, in the stories told to me by people I’ve met this year in DR Congo, Poland, Ukraine, and Kenya.

More than anything, I feel hopeful because of supporters like you who are stepping up and taking action to make tomorrow a better day. After working in humanitarian aid for most of my career, the outpouring of support for people in Ukraine was truly inspiring to me. It showed what we can do when we come together, how we can make a tremendous and immediate impact in a sudden crisis.

We need to join together again for the people in the Horn of Africa, and for desperate families in other vulnerable countries who have been hit by this crisis.

Our emergency response will feed and nourish starving families who need help to survive until this emergency passes—when the rains return, conflicts halt, or food prices become more affordable again. That may take months, or it may take years, but we make a difference when we act together.

Please help spread the word. More people need to know about what is going on, about the severity of this crisis. Share this blog with your friends and family. Visit our hunger crisis web page to take action and learn how you can get involved.

 


This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.