Global Report on Food Crises is a wake-up call

Rome – The Global Report on Food Crises should serve as a wake-up call, and ensure that we don’t neglect the provision of agricultural aid in emergency situations, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said during the presentation of the joint report today.

The report shows that food crises are becoming increasingly protracted and underscored the risk that “hard-won development gains are being reversed” as food insecurity and malnutrition become a “new normal” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qu said.

The report found that 282 million people in 59 countries and territories in 2023 needed urgent action to reduce food consumption gap, and 36 million people are in in IPC Phase 4, defined as Emergency, for which urgent action is required to save lives and livelihoods. Alarmingly, 36 countries have featured in this report for the past eight years, highlighting the difficulty of restoring food insecurity once its absence becomes acute.

FAO’s Director-General focused on that as showcasing how agricultural assistance, often deemed a slower-acting approach, should be scaled up in crisis situations.

Qu urged going beyond necessary direct distributions to find more sustainable solutions, in order to go beyond meeting humanitarian needs and reduce them.   Providing seeds, tools and livestock and the means to restart food production at scale is often the most cost-effective way to assure that food reaches the greatest number of people in hard-to-reach areas.

Examples of that shift in perspective can be found in the Sudan, where FAO provided crop seeds to one million farming families, enabling a cereals harvest that met the needs of at least 13 million people, and in Afghanistan, where a notable increase in funding for emergency agricultural interventions has contributed to an 11 percent decrease in rural food insecurity in that country since 2022,.

All too often, just a fraction of humanitarian aid for crises is allocated to protect agricultural livelihoods, even though the majority of those facing acute food insecurity live in rural areas.

Three priorities

FAO’s Director-General flagged three priorities to guide a rethinking of how to tackle food crises.

First, as a way of making better use of whatever resources are available, a better balance needs to be struck between traditional humanitarian assistance and funding for agricultural support.

Agricultural aid is humanitarian aid. At the same time, investing in agriculture is part of efforts to consider long-term, sustainable, and innovative solutions that address the root causes of food insecurity.

Positive steps in the right direction are being made, including FAO’s own Hand-in-Hand Initiative, the Word Bank’s Food Security and Nutrition Preparedness Plans, and the International Monetary Fund’s new financing facility to provide rapid-response funding in shock-driven food crises before high levels of acute food insecurity are reached.

Second, as noted, targeting supports for agricultural sectors in crisis situations can help reduce eventual emergency distribution needs.

Thirdly, the focus must be on the root causes of food crises.

Such an approach can also help transform the world’s agrifood systems to be more efficient ,more inclusive, more resilience and more sustainable and to pursue the Four Betters – better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind. 

Source : Fao