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Millions of people are teetering on the brink of starvation
by World Food Programme (WFP), agencies
20 June 2024
Millions of people are teetering on the brink of starvation as conflict rages across many corners of the world. This year, over 309 million people are estimated to face acute levels of food insecurity in the 71 countries with WFP operations and where data is available. This number does not yet account for the rapid and alarming deterioration in Sudan, as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis results are not yet available.
An estimated 37.2 million people across 47 countries will be in Emergency or worse levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 4 and above, including severely food insecure) in 2024, and require immediate emergency assistance to save lives and livelihoods.
An estimated 24.5 million children are predicted to be acutely malnourished in the 15 countries with the highest burden in 2024. The convergence of threats may further increase the number of children and pregnant and breastfeeding women and girls (PBWG) affected by acute malnutrition.
FAO and WFP have jointly warned that between June and October 2024, acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in 18 hunger hotspots. Hotspots of highest concern are Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, Palestine and Haiti.
In Palestine, based on an analysis conducted in March 2024, 1.1 million people – half of the population of the Gaza Strip – is expected to fall into IPC Phase 5 (famine) by mid-July. With the recent displacements in Rafah, and escalation of conflict in the entire Gaza Strip, the diets of young children, and PBWG has been worsening and remain worrying. An updated IPC analysis for the Gaza Strip is expected to be published.
For Sudan, an IPC alert in March this year called for urgent action to prevent famine in certain areas, as populations are at risk of facing starvation and total collapse of livelihoods, and around 3.7 million children and 1.2 million PBWG are estimated to be acutely malnourished. An updated IPC analysis reflecting the rapid and alarming deterioration is expected to be published in the coming weeks.
In South Sudan, 79,000 people and in Mali, more than 2,500 people are projected to face Catastrophic conditions (IPC/CH Phase 5) this year. In Haiti, already critical levels of acute food insecurity are likely to deteriorate in the coming months, with the risk of catastrophic conditions re-emerging.
While drivers of food insecurity are interlinked, and the impact of economic shocks and natural hazards have grown in importance in recent years, 65% of acutely food insecure people live in fragile or conflict affected contexts. 16 out of 18 hunger hotspot countries at risk of significant deterioration from June to November 2024 have conflict and violence as primary cause, particularly those at the highest alert level, including Mali, Palestine, South Sudan, Sudan and Haiti.
Globally, armed violence continues to be on the rise: 2023 saw a 12% increase in conflict compared to 2022, and a 40% increase compared to 2020. The total number of internally displaced people, mainly conflict-induced, grew by over 50% over the past five years. The effects of conflicts are also increasingly spreading beyond borders, causing cross-border population movement and regional spill-over effects.
Conflict continues severely hampering humanitarian access, hindering assistance in reaching those most in need, and often driving up operational costs.
Conflict and instability are compounded by a slowdown of economic growth in emerging markets and developing economies. Many countries worldwide continue struggling with high debt levels – putting at risk investments into protecting their people, especially the most vulnerable. Food inflation rates continue to be persistently high in dozens of countries, diminishing purchasing power and threatening households’ access to food. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, food prices have at least doubled in 26 countries.
Weather extremes, such as excessive rains, tropical storms, cyclones, flooding, droughts and increased climate variability remain significant drivers of acute food insecurity in some countries and regions.
Southern Africa is facing severe El Nino induced droughts and floods across the region, leading to national disaster declarations in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, and Madagascar. High rainfall and record high Lake Victoria levels will likely expand multi-year flooding in South Sudan's Sudd wetlands from September, lasting until early next year, potentially causing long-term population displacements.
La Nina is expected to prevail from August this year, significantly influencing rainfall distribution and temperatures. If it materialises, La Nina is likely to bring back drought conditions in Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, and northeastern Kenya during the growing season of October-December this year, and possibly during the season of March to May next year. La Nina also increases the likelihood of an extremely active hurricane season in the Caribbean, a heightened risk of flooding in the Sahel, and dry conditions during the next winter season in Central Asia.
Following a peak in 2022, the current funding landscape is affecting the entire humanitarian sector, forcing WFP – and many others - to scale back assistance and refocus efforts on the most severe needs. As a consequence, nearly all of WFP’s largest operations have reduced or plan to substantially reduce their operational plans.
Less funding means that WFP often has to reduce assistance to already vulnerable people, or abandon assistance to people in Crisis levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3). As a result, there is a real risk they may quickly fall into Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) and Catastrophe or Famine (IPC Phase 5) levels.
From January to March, WFP was able to reach 62 million people with food, cash, commodity vouchers, and capacity strengthening. During the same period, WFP assisted 5.4 million children under age 5 and PBWG with programmes to prevent malnutrition and 3.8 million children and PBWG with programmes to aid recovery from malnutrition.
In comparison with the 62 million people assisted by WFP from January to March, 93 million people were assisted during the same period last year. This represents 34% fewer people assisted this year, mainly due to reduced funding levels compounded by access constraints.
Food and cash assistance (CBT) distributed during the same periods imply a 50% decrease in food and 43% decrease in CBT, showing an even larger drop than the drop in beneficiaries assisted. This means that food or cash per ration have been reduced further in 2024’s first quarter compared to the same time last year.
WFP is forced to consider the real risk of spreading its resources too thin. For 2024, WFP has been forced to adjust its plan from 150 million people as shared in the February edition of this report to now 139 million people based on projected needs.
This year, WFP is planning to assist 17 million children under age 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women and girls (PBWG) with malnutrition prevention activities and 16.3 million children and PBWG with programmes to aid recovery from malnutrition.
Preliminary data for this year suggests that the impact of the funding gap on WFP beneficiaries may be even more severe throughout the year than initially anticipated. WFP monitoring data further highlights the negative consequences of assistance cuts, with rises in malnutrition, early marriage, migration, and child labour, alongside dips in school enrolment. Families are resorting to desperate strategies to cope, such as selling off critical household assets which in turn drive them deeper into poverty and deprivation.
22 Apr. 2024
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) reports global military spending of $2440 billion in 2023.
Global military expenditure has reached a record high of $2440bn after the largest annual rise in government spending on arms in over a decade, according to a report.
The 6.8% increase between 2022 and 2023 was the steepest since 2009, pushing spending to the highest recorded by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in its 60-year history.
The two largest spenders – the United States (37%) and China (12%) – made up around half of global military spending, increasing their expenditure by 2.3% and 6% respectively. While dwarfed by the US in military spending, China, as the world’s second biggest spender, allocated an estimated $296bn in 2023, an increase of 6% on 2022. Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and the UK follow in Sipri’s league table..
Mar. 2024
The Forbes 2024 Billionaires list reports that the number of worldwide billionaires grew by 141 in the past year, with 2,781 people holding wealth that exceeds $1 billion. These people own combined assets of $14.2 trillion, exceeding the gross domestic product of every country in the world except the U.S. and China.
Their collective wealth has risen by 120% in the past decade, at the same time as billions of people across the world have seen their living standards decrease in the face of inflation and the cost of living crisis.
“It’s been an amazing year for the world’s richest people, with more billionaires around the world than ever before,” said Chase Peterson-Withorn, Forbes’ wealth editor. “Even during times of financial uncertainty for many, the super-rich continue to thrive.”
Luke Hildyard, the executive director for the High Pay Centre thinktank, said: “The billionaire list is essentially an annual calculation of how much of the wealth created by the global economy is captured by a tiny caste of oligarchs rather than being used to benefit humanity as a whole. It should be the most urgent mission to spread this wealth more evenly.”
While the global population is "living through incredibly unequal times, lurching from one crisis to the next," says Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice U.K., the richest people in the world amass "extraordinary levels of wealth."
"World leaders need to ensure the super rich are paying their fair share, for example through introducing wealth taxes. This would help provide the resources needed to tackle multiple crises from hunger, to inequality and climate change."
Jan. 2024
Taxing windfall profits of fossil fuels and financial companies. (ActionAid, Oxfam)
In the two years running up to June 2023, 36 companies (14 in fossil fuels and 22 in the banking sector), made windfall profits of US$424 billion. These are not their overall profits, these are just the profits that are above and beyond their normal profits.
In the last two years, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and high inflation and interest rates in much of the world have helped contribute to the bumper profits of fossil fuels companies and the banking sector. By applying a 90% tax on these windfall profits, close to US$382bn could be raised. This money is urgently needed to address hunger, for climate action, to protect vulnerable communities and to build resilience through improved social protection and public services.


Eradicating poverty beyond growth
by Olivier De Schutter
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
The dominant approach to the fight against poverty relies on increasing the aggregate output of the economy (measured as the gross domestic product), combined with post-market redistribution through taxes and transfers. The Special Rapporteur argues, however, that the current focus on increasing the gross domestic product is misguided. An increase in gross domestic product is not a precondition for the realization of human rights or for combating poverty and inequalities.
The ideology of “growthism” should not become a distraction from the urgent need both to provide more of the goods and services that enhance well-being and to reduce the production of what is unnecessary or even toxic. As long as the economy is driven mainly by profit maximization, it will respond to the demand expressed by the richest groups of society, leading to extractive forms of production that worsen social exclusion in the name of creating more wealth, and it will fail to fulfil the rights of those in poverty.
Moving from an economy driven by the search for maximizing profits to a human rights economy is possible and, to remain within planetary boundaries, necessary.
The transition to a post-growth development trajectory, focused on the realization of human rights rather than on an increase in the aggregate levels of production and consumption, should be explicitly mentioned in A Pact for the Future, which will be adopted at the Summit of the Future, in September 2024.
Escaping growth dependencies will require multi-year strategies and an effort at different levels of governance. The overall objective should be to reshape the economy in order to produce more socially useful and ecologically sustainable goods and services, and to significantly reduce unnecessary and wasteful production. Appropriate sequencing and coordination of the transition at multiple levels of governance is key.
Taking the present report as an initial assessment of why a post-growth approach to poverty eradication is required and what it could look like, the Special Rapporteur will launch a round of consultations in preparation of a road map, to propose how this transformation could be achieved. Growthism needs to be abandoned. It is urgent to move away from economic arrangements that are inefficient and wasteful, while failing to respond to the essential needs of people in poverty.

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