World leaders urged to halt escalating hunger crisis as 17% more people expected to need life-saving aid in 2022

A group of 120 non-governmental organisations has joined forces in an open letter calling on world leaders to do more to halt a devastating global hunger crisis as new analysis shows the number of people likely to be in need of humanitarian aid in 2022 could rise by 17%.

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The Global Humanitarian Overview 2022,1 released today by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned that 274 million people could be in need of humanitarian assistance next year, with the world currently battling the worst hunger crisis this century. This is up from 235 million people in 2020 and 168 million in 2019.

One of the main causes of humanitarian need is food insecurity with the number of people at risk of famine rising 60% since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, an estimated 45 million people across 43 countries are at risk of famine, up from2 27 million in 2019.

Save the Children joined peer organisations - including nearly 100 locally-based organisations in countries hard-hit by hunger - in an open letter calling on world leaders to fully fund a $41 billion humanitarian hunger response to prevent famine globally and address the emergencies fuelling global hunger: conflict, the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunger and malnutrition disproportionately affect women and girls, putting them at increased risk of extreme hunger and gender-based violence. Children are amongst the most at risk- severe malnutrition affects over 45 million children globally, which is the cause of about 45% of deaths of children aged under 5.

In October, Save the Children New Zealand launched a hunger appeal to raise funds for life-saving malnutrition treatments for children, setting up water trucking and feeding programmes at schools and providing cash grants for families to access food and medical supplies.

Save the Children New Zealand Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee says that without urgent action, thousands of children will starve, reversing decades of progress.

"Sadly, there’s no vaccine for hunger, but with the help of generous Kiwi supporters, we can find a solution.

"Our teams on the ground are seeing the number of malnutrition cases rise by the day. People like Canab- in Somalia whose two-year-old twins have never known anything but hunger."

Tatiana Dasy, Save the Children’s programme director for Madagascar, says:

"In southern Madagascar, the spectre of hunger haunts you everywhere you turn. Parents are surviving on next to nothing and are selling everything they can just to feed their children a portion of sweet potatoes or rice. Sometimes, when they have nothing to eat, families pick leaves and cactus fruit or go to bed without having a meal. On days when children don’t have food on their plates, some of them play a game cooking with sand, soil and leaves, pretending it’s food.

"This is Madagascar’s worst hunger crisis in 40 years. The UN is calling it the world’s first ‘climate change famine’ and with the climate crisis intensifying, it is only likely to get worse. Nobody should have to live like this, especially in the 21st century, and especially children.

"But the new UN report tells us the horrifying situation in Madagascar is unfortunately not unique. We are in the midst of an escalating global hunger crisis that shows how urgently the world needs to act. Humanitarian agencies have only received half the funding needed to stave off famine in Madagascar and five other countries of highest concern. This is shameful and unconscionable and world leaders need to act now to pull the people of Madagascar back from the brink and ensure our children have a future."