As per the World Food Program (WFP) estimation, nearly 47 million people in more than 50 countries are not quite far from facing famine.
With the increasing demand for food, a global hunger crisis has left over 700 million people clueless about when they will eat again, while humanitarian funding is diminishing, the head of the United Nations food agency said last Thursday.
WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain, the widow of the late US senator John McCain, told the UN Security Council that due to insufficient funding, the agency was compelled to reduce food rations that feed millions of people, and “more cuts are on the way.”
“We are now living with a series of concurrent and long-term crises that will continue to fuel global humanitarian needs. This is the humanitarian community’s new reality — our new normal — and we will be dealing with the fallout for years to come”, she said.
While the agency estimates that nearly 47 million people in over 50 countries are just one step from famine, a shocking estimate suggests that 45 million children below the age of five suffer from severe malnutrition, the WFP chief said.
The agency estimated that in 79 countries where the Rome-based agency operates, up to 783 million people, one in 10 of the world’s population, go to bed hungry every night. In 2023, over 345 million people are dealing with high levels of food insecurity, which has increased by 200 million people from early 2021 before the coronavirus pandemic.
The cause of these rising numbers is “a deadly combination of conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes, and soaring fertilizer prices”, WFP said.
The economic fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine resulted in food prices going beyond the reach of people around the world at the same time as the falling production of maize, rice, soybeans, and wheat because of the high fertilizer prices, the agency said.
“Our collective challenge is to ramp up the ambitious, multi-sectoral partnerships that will enable us to tackle hunger and poverty effectively, and reduce humanitarian needs over the long-term,” McCain prompted business leaders at the council meeting to prioritize humanitarian public-private partnerships. The aim is to come up with ways to remedy and aid the world’s neediest rather than managing finances.
Michael Miebach, CEO of Mastercard, told the council that “humanitarian relief has long been the domain of government” and development institutions, and the private sector are viewed as potential sources of financial support for supplies.
“Money is still important, but companies can offer so much more. The private sector stands ready to tackle the challenges at hand in partnership with the public sector,” he said.
Miebach emphasizes that “business cannot succeed in a failing world” and the effect of the humanitarian crises on people across the world. He suggested that a business make use of its expertise to impetus its infrastructure, “innovate new approaches and deliver solutions at scale” to enhance humanitarian operations.
Jared Cohen, president of global affairs at Goldman Sachs, told the council that
the revenue of many multinational companies rivals the GDP of some of the Group of 20 countries with the largest economies. He said five American companies and many of their global counterparts have over 500,000 workers — more than the population of up to 20 UN member nations.
“Today’s global firms have responsibilities to our shareholders, clients, staff, communities, and the rules-based international order that makes it possible for us to do business,” he said.
Cohen suggested that businesses can accomplish those responsibilities during crises first and not “reinvent the wheel every time,” but rely on institutional memory and collaborating with other firms and the public sector.
He said businesses are also required ” to act with speed and innovate in real-time,” use local connections, and bring their expertise to the humanitarian response.
The UN petitioned for more than $54 billion in 2023, “and until now, 80% of those funds remain unfulfilled,” which shows that “we are facing a system in crisis,” said the United Arab Emirates ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh. She also said that public-private partnerships that were once useful additions are now crucial to humanitarian work.
Over the past decade, Nusseibeh said, the UAE has been developing “a digital platform to support a government’s ability to better harness international support in the wake of natural disasters.” The UAE has also established a major humanitarian logistics hub and has partnered with UN agencies and private companies with new technologies to reach out to those in need, she added.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the lack of funding has placed the world’s most needy people “in a moment of great peril.”
She said companies have taken the initiative, including in Haiti and Ukraine to aid refugees in the United States, but for a prolonged period, “we have turned to the private sector exclusively for financing.”
Businesses have shown “enormous generosity, but in 2023 we know they have so much more to offer. Their capacities, their know-how, and innovations are tremendously needed. The public sector must harness the expertise of the private sector and translate it into action”, Thomas-Greenfield said.