The number of people experiencing crisis-levels of hunger or worse across the globe rose by 40 million in 2021, according to a U.N. and EU-led report published Wednesday.
The figures show that world hunger was already surging at a terrifying rate well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is “likely” to exacerbate the situation, the report says.
193 million people in 53 countries or territories faced “acute food security” in 2021, the report says, which is 40 million more than the already record level in 2020. Over half a million people in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen are faring the worst, with urgent action needed to avoid starvation and death.
The report comes from the Global Network Against Food Crises, an alliance of the EU, the U.N. and NGOs pushing to end world hunger. Their report says that the world is heading in the wrong direction, with hunger rising steadily since 2018 in 39 of the countries or territories assessed in the report. The report cautions that it assessed 22 percent more people than in 2020 but insisted that does not detract from the overall worsening trend observed.
War is the main driver of hunger, with climate change and economic shocks also playing key roles.
The EU’s International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said in a press release: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jeopardizes global food security. The international community must act to avert the largest food crisis in history and the social, economic, and political upheaval that could follow.”