Inflation aggravates world hunger, says recent World Bank report

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The global inflation crisis has hit Americans’ wallets hard, but its consequences have been even more severe for large parts of the world. According to a report last month from the World Bank, food in many countries is now 10 to 30 percent more expensive than it was a year ago.

High food prices have a ripple effect on everything from nutrition and migration to conflict and even gender relations. Although food inflation rates are not as high as they were at the start of the war in Ukraine, any increase in the price of basic commodities like wheat and oil puts the hundreds of millions of people in low-income countries income who spend half their money on foods at risk of hunger.

Inflation is worsening a global food crisis that is leaving hundreds of millions of people malnourished. Where food is most unaffordable, malnutrition is widespread, meaning people are underweight and have vitamin deficiencies, and children are not growth as big as they should be. Food insecurity not only affects health, but also forces people to leave their homes and increases the risk of conflict.

The three countries with the highest food inflation – Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Venezuela – had already experienced hyperinflation in recent years. (Hyperinflation is generally defined as very high inflation, usually a monthly rate of around 50 percent.) But over the past year, many other low- and middle-income countries have also experienced the dual inflation and food crises that have plagued these three countries.

The deterioration of the food security situation is only one of the most important impacts of the global price increase.

We’ve seen respite from the price spiral – but food is still more expensive than a year ago

The hunger situation in the world is better than it was at the start of the war in Ukraine six months ago.

World food prices have fall for five consecutive months and are now back to their levels of Before the war, which had precipitated a peak. According the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), prices fell in August in all categories measured: cereals, oil, dairy, meat and sugar.

More 200 million fewer people are now considered food insecure than at the start of the war or same end of 2021when food prices hit 10-year highs due to rising energy prices, weather conditions and an increase in global demand.

But this bit of respite comes amid a global food situation that is still largely dismal. International grain prices in August were 11.4% higher than they were a year earlier, and the FAO Food Price Index, which measures monthly changes in food prices, is overall still much higher than in recent years .

The result: far too many people still cannot afford the food they used to eat.

How Inflation Affects Hunger

Most of the countries with the highest food inflation in the world, such as Venezuela, Zimbabweand Lebanonhave been experiencing exceptionally high inflation for years.

Venezuela experienced 2017 hyperinflation earlier this year, said Diego Santana Fombona, an economist at Ecoanalítica, a consultancy in Caracas. The main reason for this hyperinflation, he said, was that the government increase in money supply in response to lower oil and tax revenues. As the government began decrease in money supply and allowing foreign currency like the dollar to circulate in 2019, hyperinflation persisted until the beginning of this year.

While inflation in Venezuela has eased somewhat in recent months, food inflation — along with inflation for other basic necessities such as transportation and healthcare — is higher than headline inflation. This means that for years people have not been able to afford the foods they used to eat. For Venezuelans living in extreme poverty, it has been difficult to maintain a nutritionally diverse diet that includes vegetables, cheese and meat, said an NGO aid worker in Caracas, who asked to remain anonymous due to their organization’s communications policy. Breads and cereals are now what people can afford to eat – but if they have extra money they will opt for protein, because “if you have a little chicken and fish in your house, you are rich”.

“People are eating but not well, and they are used to not eating well,” said the NGO worker. “The food insecurity situation has been there for so many years that for many people, especially young people, it is the only thing they remember.”

This year, most of the world has started feeling what happens when food prices soar. Even in countries where food inflation is not completely out of control, it affects diet and nutrition. In the United States, for example, a dozen eggs that would have cost $1.53 in 2019 (adjusted for inflation) costs $1.67 in 2021. So unless someone’s salary has increased by the same amount in the last two years, food – especially animal products – takes up a bigger share of their income.

And as people in the United States pass about 10 percent of their income on average on food, in the poorest countries, this share can reach 50%, according to the authors of the World Bank Food Security Update told me in an email.

Preventing hunger and its ripple effects

Unaffordable food causes other problems. In addition to health and growth problems, malnutrition causes cognitive problems for young children that can affect them throughout their lives. The women are more likely be undernourished than men, and this gender gap has only increased in the past year, increasing the burden women face due to pandemic job loss and unpaid care work.

In countries where people cannot afford food for their families, they look for work in other regions or countries. This makes them vulnerable to human traffickingwhile perhaps leaving their children traumatic for families. starvation too forces people to leave their homes.

“We need humanitarian aid directed to the countries that need it most,” said Marco Sanchez Cantillo, co-author of the FAO 2022 report. food security and nutrition report. To prevent hunger and prepare for long-term shocks, Sanchez Cantillo said, governments will need to address more structural factors to make food systems more sustainable: for example, reducing food waste, building rural roads and support more nutritionally diverse foods.

The authors of the World Bank report said that in addition to taking steps to fertilizers more affordable and available, governments can set aside trade restrictions, avoid stockpiling food and provide cash transfers to vulnerable households.

Hunger in the world has been going in the right direction for several months, but the inflationary environment remains worrying. Hundreds of millions of people cannot afford the food they could buy before the pandemic, and it is the world’s poorest people who continue to be hardest hit.

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