A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Today is World Food Day (WFD) and for Oxfam this is a day to mark the fact that one in eight of us still go to bed hungry every night. That is more than the population of the US, EU and Canada combined.
This year, WFD comes exactly one week after a new report revealed that global efforts to eradicate hunger have dramatically slowed over the last five years. Rather than decreasing in line with government promises under the Millennium Development Goals, the number of hungry people remains the same. And in Africa and many least developed countries, hunger has actually increased by around 30 per cent.
Sky-rocketing food prices
This day allows us to reflect on a year that has seen the world narrowly avoid a global food crisis, with food prices reaching historic highs. It’s been a year where regional and national food crises continue to take hold, with more than 18 million people across West and Central Africa at risk of hunger. In Yemen alone, 10 million people – almost half the population – do not have enough to eat.
But this day also coincides with an opportunity to turn this situation around. In Rome this week, representatives of governments, international organisations, private sector and civil society organisations are meeting to discuss ways to increase the world’s food security at The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) annual meeting.
The Committee on World Food Security can help
Small scale food producers are working with organisations like Oxfam to raise the voices of those affected by the broken food system, and to demand the action necessary to fix it. Unlike other international forums, everyone – nations large and small, people wealthy and poor – has the same representation at the CFS, which is why it is uniquely equipped to find meaningful solutions to hunger.
But it’s important that the CFS targets the right issues. Increasing temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events are devastating food production around the world. Governments at the CFS must ensure their climate change policies work towards eliminating hunger and achieving the right to food for all.
Land grabs and food crises
A critical concern is stopping the rush on agricultural land from foreign investors that is depriving so many small-scale food producers of their livelihoods. Earlier this year, the CFS adopted important guidelines on land, but it now must urgently work to implement these guidelines and ensure that they are supported by other powerful actors such as the World Bank.
Over the past few months of summer the prices of key staple foods reached historic highs, intensifying hunger in many developing countries. Yemen’s food crisis is set to worsen as the country imports 90 per cent of its wheat at extremely high prices. The CFS needs to increase poor people’s resilience to the food price volatility that is becoming a fixture of our food system by scaling up social protection programs and by boosting food reserves.
We can change things
Rising hunger, regional food crises, food price volatility and climate change are placing ever more stress on the global food system. But at Oxfam, we hold an unwavering belief that this system can be reformed. And there are vitally important steps that can be taken by the CFS this week that will bring us closer to a future where everyone has enough to eat, always.