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Press Release

IRC: Climate crisis exacerbates unprecedented levels of food insecurity and extreme hunger

The catastrophic consequences of climate change are compounding an unprecedented global hunger crisis caused by rising food prices, conflict, displacement, and the economic fallout of COVID-19.

The devastating impact of the Climate Crisis on global food insecurity is made clear in the IRC’s latest report, which shows that hunger, conflict and climate vulnerability often go hand-in-hand for communities living in the most fragile contexts around the world. Seven of the ten countries which are most vulnerable to climate change are already experiencing conflict and fragility.

This has only been made worse as the war in Ukraine continues to impact global access to food. An additional 47 million people are projected to face acute hunger this year, an increase from 276 million people pre-conflict. Many countries already experiencing food crises in the Middle East and Africa are reliant on wheat, fertiliser and grain imports from Ukraine and Russia and are feeling the impact of the Hunger Fallout from the conflict.

The East Africa region – where 84% of wheat demand is met through imports - is facing the driest recorded conditions in over 40 years, one of the worst climate-induced emergencies seen in recent history. Over 13 million people are already at risk of acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia – the latter relies on Russia and Ukraine for the majority of its wheat imports.

West Africa, which has not only experienced intense conflict and displacement, is facing the worst food crisis in a decade. The 2022 Global Report on Food Crisis estimates that 41 million people will face extreme hunger this year alone. Cereal production in some parts of the region has dropped by a third compared to last year.

In Nigeria specifically, lower-than-average rainfall, coupled with conflict, has displaced nearly 2.5 million people from their homes in the northeast of the country. Over 50 percent of women in Nigeria are engaged in agricultural work; a form of employment that supports their economic empowerment and furthers their opportunities. However, this also makes them more vulnerable to the damaging effects of the climate crisis, at a time when they already face barriers to access essential agricultural inputs and social protections.  Faced with difficult decisions on how to support themselves, many families are being forced to eat less and sell their belongings, jeopardising their resilience and the future of their children.

This World Environment Day, the IRC is calling for support to its ‘Protecting Milestones’ campaign for which funds raised will go in full to a new programme to target childhood malnutrition in Nigeria, by providing nutritious meal packs, education and more.

Through swift and coordinated action, the international community, including the UK Government, can save lives, build the resilience of crisis-affected communities, and preempt future shocks. Priority actions must include combining humanitarian aid and climate and gender sensitive interventions addressing malnutrition and food insecurity.

Daphne Jayasinghe, IRC’s Policy Director, Europe, says: “The links between the Climate Crisis and acute hunger in some of the world’s most vulnerable places are as clear as they are devastating. That’s why support for the ‘Protecting Milestones’ appeal could not come at a more critical time. World Environment Day should also be a reminder to the international community to do more to combat the current food crisis through meaningful and inclusive climate action and ensuring that the conflict in Ukraine does not worsen this suffering. With millions of people facing acute hunger across the world, the scale of the humanitarian needs could not be clearer."

Bilkisu Muhammad, an IRC client in Nigeria, says: “I have learned a lot from the health workers, including how to raise my children in a healthy environment at home, how to feed them and how to teach them…. Now that I have learned to farm, it is also better for me to grow my own crops. I used to grow okra and other vegetables. I use them at home, and also sell some to others who don’t have any. With this money, I could buy things for my children and myself.”

Notes to the editors:

For every £1 donated to our Protecting Milestones appeal between 3 May and 3 August 2022, the UK government will contribute £1 of UK aid to fund a new programme to treat malnutrition in Nigeria, up to £2 million. A generous IRC donor will also match the original donation, meaning your gift will go three times as far.

Your support, and the matching funds provided by the UK government, is vital to funding the IRC’s life-changing programmes around the world. The funds provided by the UK government will go to a new programme to treat malnutrition in northeast Nigeria.

It is the compassion and generosity of our donors that make our work possible. Together, we can help children and families in crisis access urgently needed health care, education, protection services and more. We can ensure the needs of women and children — who are disproportionately impacted by crisis and conflict — are met. We can help children living through conflict recover and reach their full potential. And we can empower people around the world to advocate for their rights and make their voices heard.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.