Global Hunger Rising as Aid Funding Declines, Warns World Food Programme Official in GCC

by Ella

In the midst of conflicts, natural disasters, and the looming specter of climate change, a concurrent epidemic is spreading across the globe: an estimated 345 million people in 79 countries now grapple with acute hunger.

Abdel-Mageed Yahia, the director of the World Food Programme’s UAE office and representative for the Gulf Cooperation Council region, sounds an urgent warning that unless immediate action is taken to meet these food needs, the hunger crisis may spiral into a catastrophe.


“Indeed, we are facing an unprecedented level of hunger this year,” Yahia remarked during a special interview with Arab News Japan, recorded in Dubai. “While we achieved considerable success in 2022, reaching approximately 140 million people, 2023 is proving to be a challenging year.”


Among the distressing statistics, Yahia highlights that out of the 340 million people confronting hunger worldwide, a staggering 40 million are teetering on the brink of famine, trapped in the throes of extreme hunger.


The root causes of this burgeoning crisis are manifold, Yahia explains. Conflict remains the principal driver of food insecurity, plaguing regions from the Middle East to Africa, the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan. Simultaneously, climate change exacerbates the situation by disrupting agricultural patterns, and the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic further compounds the problem.


Yahia emphasizes, “Climate change is playing a major role in this crisis. It cannot be ignored any longer in discussions about global food security.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2019 report on Climate Change and Land corroborates this assertion, underscoring that climate change is already impacting food security, especially in low-latitude regions and arid climates in Africa.

Moreover, the director notes that long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, attributable to climate change, are likely a result of human activities over the last two centuries.

In response to these multifaceted challenges, the World Food Programme is grappling with prioritizing its assistance efforts. Yahia elucidates, “When faced with a growing number of populations in need of humanitarian aid on one hand, and diminishing funds on the other, we are compelled to redistribute resources, taking from the hungry to feed the starving.”

Unfortunately, the financial situation poses a severe obstacle. The World Food Programme is unlikely to meet its funding target of $24 billion to assist 170 million of the world’s most vulnerable individuals. While $14 billion was raised successfully last year, the estimate for 2023 stands at around $10 billion. As hunger intensifies and funding dwindles, the situation becomes increasingly precarious.

Saudi Arabia has stepped in to alleviate this crisis, providing vital support to a crucial food aid program in Jordan. In August, KSrelief donated $6.8 million, ensuring the continuation of food assistance programs for Syrian refugees living in Jordanian camps. KSrelief’s substantial contributions, which have exceeded $1.25 billion since its establishment in 2015, play a pivotal role in sustaining these essential programs.

Yahia notes that this donation helped rescue operations in Jordan, particularly food assistance programs within refugee camps. He highlights the importance of maintaining such support, given the influx of displaced people, which increases demand for food in already war-ravaged countries.

The conflict in Sudan has disrupted essential supply chains and trade routes, further aggravating food insecurity. “When a country is embroiled in crisis, imports of food are disrupted, and trade routes are severed,” Yahia explains. The situation has worsened dramatically, with nearly half of Sudan’s population experiencing food insecurity even before the outbreak of violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces group in April.

In the broader context of global food security, the Russia-Ukraine conflict poses an imminent threat. As both nations supplied over a quarter of the world’s wheat, with 40 percent of the WFP’s cereal supplies hailing from this region, the invasion in 2022 stirred fears of a massive food shortage and soaring prices worldwide.

While global food prices have since returned to pre-invasion levels, Yahia remains cautious, warning that ongoing conflicts could disrupt supply chains once more. The fallout from the conflict in Ukraine, including landmines and port access issues, could lead to a reduction in food production. Despite providing around two billion meals to Ukrainians affected by war, the WFP continues to face challenges in Ukraine, where one-third of the population still grapples with food insecurity.

Yahia emphasizes that the collapse of the grain deal and the closure of the Black Sea corridor could have repercussions extending far beyond Ukraine’s borders. Rising shipping costs for commodities from other parts of the world may exacerbate the situation.

In conclusion, while conflict remains the primary driver of global hunger, climate change’s role in exacerbating food insecurity cannot be underestimated. These crises demand concerted global efforts to ensure food security and humanitarian assistance reach those in dire need.



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