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LewisJoly-ACF-MOYAMBA_042 © Lewis Joly pour Action contre la Faim



Why is world hunger still an issue ?

According to SOFI, the FAO’s (the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation) report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world, 735 million people across the world suffered from hunger in 2022. This is an increase of 122 million people compared to 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The end of hunger is the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) set by governments, with 2030 as a deadline, yet the world is moving in the wrong direction. There are eight years left to eliminate hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition. What are the key figures on hunger today? What are its causes? What is hunger? How can we fight world hunger? We will explore all of this in this article.




Before delving into the subject, let’s go over the basics. When we talk about hunger here, we are not referring to the feeling of hunger when you skip a meal, but rather to a lasting phenomenon during which populations can no longer access sufficient food, in terms of both quality and quantity. These people are experiencing food insecurity. In other words, they are struggling to feed themselves properly over a prolonged period of time. This lack of food and nutrients will have a direct impact on their health, and if the situation continues, they may suffer from malnutrition, sometimes known as undernutrition.

It leads to weight loss, to the extent that the person becomes underweight, and stunted growth. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, thus making the person vulnerable to other diseases, and can even lead to death.




Famine is a state of serious food shortage where a significant portion of the population of a country or region has no access to food for a prolonged period, leading to death among the populations concerned. Famine is an exceptional situation where a large number of people cannot feed themselves properly.

International bodies have established a set of food insecurity alert levels known as the IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification), which range from 1 to 5. This classification is based on criteria that determine the severity of food insecurity in a region of the world in order to attract international attention to certain critical situations and promote action. The highest levels correspond to an extreme emergency that can be categorised as a famine or quasi-famine.




In 2022, hunger figures remained relatively stable, but the situation shows contrasting trends in different regions of the world. Asia as a whole and Latin America saw a drop in hunger, while in West Asia, the Caribbean and all sub-regions of Africa, hunger was on the rise. Africa was the most affected region, where a fifth of the population suffers from hunger.

In 2022, hunger affected 402 million people in Asia, 282 million people in Africa, and 43 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world (SOFI) states that over 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2021. This figure – 112 million higher than in 2019 – can be attributed to inflation on food prices caused by the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures implemented to contain it.






In France, between 5 and 7 million people – almost a tenth of the population – used food aid in 2020, according to the ‘State of Poverty in France 2021’ report issued by Secours Catholique. These are figures that have never before been seen in peacetime in France. The coronavirus crisis made already fragile households even more vulnerable, especially single-parent families.

Asylum seekers are also severely affected. In Paris, an estimated 50% of asylum seekers rely exclusively on food aid and 33% of them are in a situation of severe hunger, according to our joint report with several other associations, entitled ‘Those Forgotten by the Right to Asylum’.





The people most affected by malnutrition are children, women and, especially, farmers and smallholders.

Women, who are the victims of gender inequality, still lack access to land and income sources. Their work, especially domestic work, is often unpaid. When they are on their own, they do not have access to food or enough resources to satisfy their hunger.

Children, particularly children under 5, have a more fragile immune system than adults, and are therefore highly vulnerable. Mothers themselves face serious food insecurity, and as a result, they produce less milk or less nutritious milk, which makes their children more vulnerable to hunger. In addition, unequal access to drinking water has a direct impact on babies’ health, especially when they drink formula mixed with non-potable water.

In its 2023 report, the FAO estimates that 45 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from the deadliest form of malnutrition, which can multiply the risk of the child dying by 12. According to the report, 148 million children under the age of 5 show symptoms of stunted growth and developmental delays due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diet.




Hunger is mainly the result of conflict, inequalities and the climate emergency. These factors are interlinked and exacerbate each other, creating a vicious circle in which means of subsistence are weakened and lives are ruined.

They are having a growing influence on a global scale. This is particularly the case for climate change and repeated economic shocks, especially those linked to the socio-economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

In 2022, economic shocks overtook war as the main cause of acute food insecurity, in terms of number of affected countries and regions. However, conflict remains the main factor for a greater number of people.



In 2022, conflict was the main cause of hunger for 117 million people, spread out over 19 countries.² Most of these countries are either currently at war or are still suffering the consequences of a past conflict.

In 2022, famine affected 7 countries in a situation of prolonged conflict or insecurity:² Somalia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen. Conflict is taking place in these areas, and the populations’ food situation was already difficult before the pandemic crisis began. It is highly important to provide these people with access to health care and humanitarian assistance. These areas are often difficult to access for humanitarian actors, due to administrative and security constraints.

Today, in many countries, hunger is used as a weapon of war. Starving populations, poisoning wells, burning crops: all of these practices are commonly used tactics to subjugate populations. To combat this, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 2417, which penalises the use of starvation as a method of warfare.

Conflicts may come about due to unequal access to resources, population movements caused by other conflicts, poverty and even climate change.



The climate emergency and extreme weather conditions were the main cause of acute food insecurity for 56.8 million people in 12 countries in 2022.² Destructive events such as cyclones, floods and droughts plunge thousands of people into a precarious situation every year. After experiencing a natural disaster, populations are deprived of their land, income and home. Climate events drive populations to move and seek refuge in other countries or to seek out other resources, which can cause conflict when access is insufficient and needs to be shared.

Today, our agro-industrial model aggravates the causes of world hunger. In this context, agriculture is both the victim and the perpetrator. Extreme climate events may be the main reason behind agricultural production loss on a global scale, but it is the agro-industrial food system that is responsible for a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: specifically, 50% of methane and 60% of nitrous oxide. The heating power of these gases is between 25 and 298 times greater than that of CO2.³

We champion agroecology and practices like agroforestry and the creation of gardens and seed banks by training communities and providing them with the necessary equipment. Without a preserved, protected environment, all our efforts to combat hunger will be compromised.



Access to the main resources needed for survival – water, land for crops, education and health – is unequal across the world. Even today, millions of people do not have access to running water, and waterborne diseases can contribute to malnutrition. The WHO estimates that 50% of child malnutrition cases are directly linked to the consumption of dirty water and to a lack of access to hygiene and sanitation. To fight against hunger effectively for the long term, we must guarantee SDG number 6: access to water for all.

Gender inequality also plays a part in the development of the fight against hunger. Women’s role in the fight against hunger is essential, yet they face quasi-systematic discrimination in certain regions. In 2022, the food insecurity gap between men and women was reduced considerably. Some 27.8% of women were in a situation of moderate or severe food insecurity, compared to 25.4% of men, according to the SOFI 2023 report. This is a gap of 2.4%, compared to 3.8% in 2021.

All over the world, women do not have equal access to land, tools or the financial means they need to become independent. They can be forced to marry and lack access to education, which traps them in the vicious circle of poverty. If men and women had the same access to land, hunger could drop by 12–17%. Women are also more affected by climate change, population displacement and conflict.




The Covid-19 crisis had a huge impact on food systems all over the world. The restrictions and lockdown measures implemented everywhere to combat the virus led to losses of harvest and income, thus thrusting millions into a precarious situation. Due to measures taken to contain the pandemic, millions of people are now struggling to feed themselves properly. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated social inequalities, making efforts to improve social protection policy more necessary than ever.

In France, for example, an Action contre la Faim study shows that half of the people who used food aid in 2021 did not need it before the pandemic. In 2021, 3.1 billion people did not have a healthy diet for economic reasons.⁵

There has been a worrying rise in malnutrition, especially in countries where the health care system was already made fragile by conflict, climate events and poverty, before the arrival of Covid-19. The impacts of the pandemic have accentuated hunger in these populations.




The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted faults in our food systems.

The pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, two of the world’s biggest exporters of grain, have emphasised importing countries’ dependence on producing countries that specialise in a certain type of product. The war has put pressure on countries that depend on grain imports, such as Madagascar or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In addition, lockdown measures and restrictions on travel to contain the spread of Covid-19 prevented agricultural workers from cultivating their land, forcing them to abandon their crops. Rethinking and improving food systems is clearly more urgent than ever.

Action contre la Faim calls upon decision-makers and governments across the world to take measures to transform food systems. We must reverse negative trends by radically changing food systems and reorienting them towards small-scale agroecology. Governments need to focus their efforts on agroecology and local, sustainable food systems. Agroecology can increase both food production and farmers’ independence while reducing environmental pressures such as greenhouse gas emissions and pollution due to pesticides.

It harnesses various environmentally friendly techniques, such as seeking complementarity between species. It offers a host of advantages in comparison with industrial agricultural practices, which deplete and degrade soil and constitute another cause of hunger. Agroecology values farmers’ expertise and helps to build economically viable, fair food systems.

The global food system must be revised. Leaders must make the most of opportunities like the G7 summit to encourage worldwide change and work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promised by the UN by 2030 to guarantee a sustainable world for all.


_DSC2017 © Christophe Da Silva pour Action contre la Faim
AFG_Nut&Health_2022_Sandra Calligaro (3) © Sandra Calligaro pour Action contre la Faim
Kischanga, ecole Leontine Heri Basengo, travailleur pyscho-sociale, parle avec Esther Bunyere pour mieux comprendre son etat mentale apres la seance SMPS dans une ecole a Kischanga.
220305_MoldaviaACH_032 © Gonzalo Hohr pour Action contre la Faim
AHUGUET_033 © Alexis HUGUET pour Action contre la Faim






For 40 years, Action contre la Faim has been working to prevent, detect and treat malnutrition, its causes and its consequences among the most vulnerable populations. As the causes of hunger are multiple, we take a multisectoral approach to respond to populations’ needs.

For example, we promote a more sustainable agriculture model – agroecology – in several of the countries in which we operate. We support some vulnerable people financially and help others to get work and economic opportunities so that they have sustainable, independent access to means of subsistence.

We also offer access to drinking water and sanitation in remote villages in the countries where we operate. We promote hygiene and hand-washing to stop the spread of diseases like Covid-19.

Without determination and political decisions, hunger will always be a problem. This is why we lead advocacy efforts to call upon decision-makers in international bodies and governments. We put together recommendations for fighting against hunger because to do so is to fight against inequalities, for peace, against the climate emergency and for a fairer food system.

In 2022, we supported 28 million people across the world with our various programmes.




¹Open Letter to UN Member States on the Global Food Crisis
²WFP, Global Report on Food Crises 2023
³Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D., Monforti-Ferrario, F., Tubiello, F. N., & Leip, A. J. N. F. (2021). Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Nature Food, 2(3), 198-209.
⁴FAO, The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11
⁵SOFI 2023



Rapport « Une Pincée d’agroécologie pour une louche d’agro–industrie » ACF/Oxfam/CCFD
[5] Rapport sur l’Etat de la sécurité alimentaire et de la nutrition dans le monde

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