To make a dent in spiralling global hunger, the world must rapidly scale up protection for vulnerable people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today, a week before world leaders meet in Dubai for the next UN Climate Summit, COP28. Last year alone, climate extremes pushed a staggering 56.8 million people into acute food insecurity.
“Many of the world’s most fragile countries, ravaged by conflict, instability, and poverty, are those most impacted by climate change. The climate crisis doesn’t have to be a hunger crisis, but that’s exactly what’s happening,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “We have a collective duty to protect and support people living on the edge of this growing disaster – and we need to do it now.”
At COP28, WFP will call for immediate support to scale up climate protection for food-insecure communities whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by global heating, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected settings. Communities need access to early warning information, financial protection through anticipatory cash before disasters hit and climate insurance for crops and livestock, as well as shock-responsive social protection systems. Without decisive and transformational action to warn and protect communities against disasters and extreme weather events, the world will see growing hunger, insecurity and displacement.
By strengthening local systems and directing more funding to contexts most at risk, it is possible to protect local food systems from the worst impacts of climate extremes and avoid prolonged food insecurity. This is much more cost efficient than continually responding to new hunger crises. However, as currently funded, the humanitarian system is struggling to keep up with the pace of escalating crises, pushing more and more people into hunger and weakening already strained food systems.
“WFP has already supported 15 million people in 42 countries with protection against climate shocks, but this is not enough. Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis need stronger, longer-term protection before these events hit to keep them safe and fed,” added McCain. “Inaction will mean higher costs, deepening insecurity, and more hunger.”
In September, WFP released US$12.8million to protect over 550,000 people from the impending drought impact in Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The funds are enabling the dissemination of early warning messages, drought-tolerant seeds, anticipatory cash payments and safe water for communities and livestock.
In the Sahel, in 2022, WFP worked with three million people to restore land, build infrastructure and improve nutrition and food security in their communities. In Niger, 80 percent of the villages that had previously participated in such activities and are in areas impacted by the 2022 global food crisis, did not require humanitarian assistance.
Nearly 500,000 people have received humanitarian assistance this year through climate risk insurance payouts WFP received after drought or tropical cyclone disasters in Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Madagascar and Mali, which was made possible by insurance policies that WFP purchased through the African Union’s African Risk Capacity Replica programme.
Experts believe 2023 will be the hottest year on record and the world is coming dangerously close to permanently passing the critical 1.5°C degrees limit of global heating. The first half of this year saw the longest-lived tropical cyclone on record in southern Africa and record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires across Europe, North America and Asia. The rains that arrived after the three-year long drought in the Horn of Africa brought flash floods and mass displacement, rather than relief to farmers.
With 333 million people facing acute food insecurity and a more than 60 percent shortfall in WFP funding this year, it is critical that the world prioritizes protecting people from predictable climate shocks before they fall into food insecurity.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).