The Perfect Enemy | Opinion | How we can pull back from the brink of a global food disaster
July 1, 2022

Opinion | How we can pull back from the brink of a global food disaster

Opinion | How we can pull back from the brink of a global food disaster  Hamilton Spectator

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World Hunger Day (May 28) is rarely on our radar in Canada — but it should be. A global crisis of epic proportions has arisen from a deadly cocktail of COVID-19, conflict and climate change — pushing 45 million people in 43 countries to the edge of starvation without urgent life-saving assistance.

Conflict and war is sadly on every screen. I recently travelled to the border of Romania and Ukraine and witnessed the mass exodus of mostly children and their mothers fleeing for their lives. The cost of this war is astronomical. Already reeling from the impact of COVID-19, this conflict has forced millions from their homes in an instant with often nothing but a tiny suitcase. In addition to ensuring they can find safe havens where children can play, World Vision continues to provide vital supplies of emergency food and water.

But the Ukraine conflict has become much bigger than the battlefield. The aftershocks are having a global ripple effect: increasing costs of fuel, fertilizer and wheat, exacerbated by port closures, sanctions and trade restrictions are supercharging a hunger crisis and creating the shocking potential for mass starvation across hunger hot spots in the most vulnerable nations around the world.

Indeed, as I’ve visited our work in fragile contexts where it is already very difficult to be a child, I’ve seen how hunger is multiplied by both conflict and climate change. When in Afghanistan just a few years ago, it was clear that drought is now a bigger danger to survival than conflict. Millions of Afghans, particularly children, who are already living on the edge of survival, are now experiencing worsening health and severe malnutrition in ever greater numbers.

My colleague Asuntha Charles, national director, World Vision Afghanistan has told me how she has seen more and more parents make gut-wrenching decisions to save their children from hunger, even selling them. Girls are at greater risk of child marriage as their education becomes more disrupted.

I didn’t think we’d need to launch another global response that repeated the breadth of our global response to COVID-19. But we have. World Vision’s 18-month Global Hunger Response will focus on the fragile countries around the world where children are one step away from famine or facing starvation. We must respond and we must sound an alarm loudly.

As the largest partner to the World Food Programme for the delivery of food assistance, we deeply understand how horrific numbers like 276 million people facing acute food insecurity could rise to between 309 million and 323 million under different scenarios due to the conflict in Ukraine. We need to quickly build on our efforts to address widespread hunger and malnutrition that have already reached 11.5 million people, but which need to be rapidly expanded to keep pace with this worsening situation.

We and our partners in the humanitarian aid sector are calling on the international community to immediately prioritize the lives of millions of children who are at risk of dying of starvation. And Canada can show real leadership by making financial and political commitments at next month’s G7 summit in Germany.

Hunger is no longer second to COVID-19. Before the global pandemic few could have imagined that we would soon face the terrifying prospect of a global famine, but this crisis is here and now. Let’s prevent a global catastrophe before it’s too late.

Michael Messenger is the president and CEO of World Vision Canada.