Hunger Now Grips Quarter of a Billion as War Roils Food Supplies

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(Bloomberg) -- The number of people facing life-threatening hunger around the world surged by a third last year, as economic shocks worsened and food prices soared.

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That’s according to the Global Network Against Food Crises, which said world hunger rose for a fourth straight year — more than doubling over that span. The report from the alliance of international aid organizations detailed how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had an “outsized impact” on world food systems, which the United Nations has warned would supercharge the crisis.

Some 258 million people across 58 countries or territories suffered food insecurity acute enough to threaten their lives or livelihoods in 2022, the report showed. That’s up from 193 million people in 53 countries in the prior year. The cost-of-living crisis and an increase in the population analyzed contributed to the worrying jump, with some of the poorest countries hit hardest.

“More than a quarter of a billion people are now facing acute levels of hunger, and some are on the brink of starvation,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “That’s unconscionable.”

Economic shocks were the main catalyst in almost half the areas, including surging food prices and trade disruptions stemming from the war in Ukraine, a major grain and vegetable oil supplier. While food-commodity costs have since eased, they remain historically high, and food inflation rose more than 10% in 38 of the countries and territories in the report.

Conflict was another leading driver of hunger, and the problem has been exacerbated by extreme weather, including recent drought in the Horn of Africa and last year’s floods in Pakistan.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen are among the worst-affected areas.

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