Global Food and Nutrition Crisis and Building Forward Better

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The Global Food and Nutrition Crisis: What and Why

A citizen of Beirut has woken up every morning, over the last eight months, to find the prices of essential food items increased. The cost of keeping Lebanese families fed has doubled and then tripled since mid-2021. Food inflation hit 322% in June 2022 – an experience shared by many other low- and lower-middle-income countries around the world (World Bank, 2022). However, incomes have not risen comparably. Safe and nutritious foods are therefore increasingly unaffordable: the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity globally has increased from 135 million to 345 million in just two years (WFP, 2022). 

The causes of the Global Food and Nutrition Crisis can be traced to a series of shocks affecting economies and food systems such as the sudden disruption of global food supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the War in Ukraine. The conflict involves two of the largest grain producers in the world, Russia and Ukraine, which together supply 30% of the world’s wheat, 20% of maize, and 70% of sunflower oil (WFP, 2022). The Food Price Index, already at its peak before the conflict in Ukraine, soared and reached its highest level since FAO started recording. 1.7 billion people now live in an economy severely exposed to rising food prices, rising energy prices, or plummeting fiscal capacity (UNCTAD, 2022).  

As both production and distribution have been significantly hampered, food-importing countries have seen prices skyrocket, leading some of them to implement export limiting measures or outright bans on food supplies (World Bank, 2022). These policies have further exacerbated shortages around the world, impacting the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver life-saving aid in crises.  

 

What can we do? The role of social protection and USP2030

Building and strengthening national social protection systems can help people to meet their needs, respond to shocks and stressors, and build long-term resilience to food insecurity. Routine and shock-responsive social protection can improve access to and the availability, utilisation, and stability of nutritious food to break the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty. For example, linkages between social protection, food, and health systems can improve the food security and nutrition outcomes of vulnerable groups by facilitating multi-sectoral and comprehensive interventions. 

For example, cash transfers and food subsidies in Kenya and India have mitigated poverty and malnutrition for recipients, buffering the socio-economic impacts of shocks for millions of vulnerable households (ZEF, 2022).  

However, there is still an evidence, learning, and capacity gap around how to optimise social protection systems to respond to the present and future global food and nutrition crises. Therefore, building on the discussions commemorating World Food Day 2022, USP2030 Working Group members on Social Protection and Food Systems have held a webinar on the crucial role of Social Protection in responding to the Global Food and Nutrition Crisis and building forward better.  

The open discussion presented an opportunity for Governments, multilateral organisations and academics to exchange perspectives. This knowledge exchange will enable national social protection systems to meet growing global food security and nutritional needs, support long-term socio-economic development, and ensure the recovery of developing countries. 

The webinar was targeted at national social protection policymakers and practitioners, government representatives, USP2030 Working Group members, and development partners.  

 

Speakers:

William A. Masters, Professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University

Natalia Winder-Rossi, Director of Social Policy and Social Protection at UNICEF Headquarters

Ugo Gentilini, Global Lead for Social Assistance with the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank Group

Saul Morris, Director of Programme Services of GAIN 

Marco Knowles, Senior Social Protection Officer at FAO

 

Moderator: Juan Gonzalo Jaramillo Mejia, Programme Policy Advisor for Social Protection at World Food Programme

 

Related resources:

Blog Post | Global Food Crisis and Social Protection

Podcast | Ep. 19: Mind the Nutrition Gap

The impact of the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

No Time To Waste: UNICEF's Acceleration Plan 2022 - 2023

Child Food Poverty: A Nutrition Crisis in Early Childhood

Tracking Global Social Protection Responses to Price Shocks: Living Paper v.3

Anticipatory cash transfers in climate disaster response

Safety nets, health crises and natural disasters: Lessons from Sierra Leone