Delegates arriving for the World Bank and IMF 2023 Spring Meetings were greeted with spinning empty plates as campaigners drew attention to the precarious state of food systems and called for more and better structured finance to tackle global hunger.
Campaign group Hungry for Action gathered outside the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. to draw attention to both the finance gap and the impact of multiple crises that have left 349 million people facing acute food insecurity this year. The group is calling for swift action to save lives now and scaled investment in climate resilient food systems to break the cycle of food crises.
Campaigners held up red plates, which represented the emergency situation as well as the red tape holding up better finance for food systems. Together, their plates spelled out messages reading: “We’re Hungry for Action: we can’t eat words.”
“An estimated 828 million people globally suffer from hunger. More than three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet, and that figure is only likely to grow as the devastating impact of climate change squeezes global food systems further. I see the impact in my own country of Zambia every single day” said Fr Alex Muyebe, Director of the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection, for Hungry for Action.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We know what to do. Hunger is a political choice. We’re calling on finance ministers and leaders at the World Bank and IMF to put the food crisis at the top of the agenda, to take urgent action to stabilize the situation, to invest in smallholder farmers to protect their livelihoods and nourish their communities and to leverage these institutions to deliver more financing for development and climate action”
The campaign group is backing wider calls for reform of international financial institutions, including the World Bank, to free up more funds to finance development and climate action and wants to see tackling the food crisis at the top of the next World Bank President’s agenda.
Food price hikes triggered after the invasion of Ukraine have compounded global hunger, which had already increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recovery in many low-income countries has been stalled by extreme weather events such as the unprecedented flooding in Pakistan last year and the record-breaking drought across the Horn of Africa.
Last year, the World Bank committed up to $30 billion to address food insecurity over the subsequent 15 months. Hungry for Action welcomed this commitment but warned increased funding is needed as well as more information on where and how it has been spent.
For example, a recent analysis for Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria estimated that it would require an average additional public investment of USD 10 billion per year through 2030 to lift these countries’ smallholder farmers out of poverty, improve access to nutrition and transform their food systems.
“The hungry cannot eat words – they need action, and it starts with proper, dedicated, significant and sustained investment and reform,” said Alice Macdonald, Hungry for Action’s Campaign Director.
“The shameful hunger crisis should be top of the agenda because we cannot achieve any of our other shared Global Goals until we develop sustainable and resilient food systems everywhere.”
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