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Climate change is bad, but it is perfect for one thing: hunger

September 21, 2019

Climate change is bad, but it is perfect for one thing: hunger – WFP / JACQUES DAVID

WASHINGTON, Sep. 21 (For the United States World Food Program) –

News about climate change is everywhere. Environmental experts from around the world have voiced alarm about new weather patterns and their harmful effects:

– Deserts are spreading beyond their former borders, drowning fertile lands.

– Droughts occur more frequently and last longer than they did in generations.

– Monsoons, tropical storms and floods occur more often and with greater force.

Our climate is in ruins for all these reasons and more. But for one thing, the weather is fine. It is the perfect climate for hunger.

As the rising temperatures cause an unpredictable climate, the most vulnerable populations in the world are the most hit. Those who have the least environmental footprint – mostly small farmers and poor communities – are the ones that are most impacted by environmental changes.

Right now, 80 percent of people who go hungry in the world live in areas prone to natural disasters and extreme weather, which creates precisely the right conditions for hunger to take root.

These are the five main ways in which extreme weather leads to hunger:

1. Loss of crops pushes children to leave school.

When crops do not grow because there is not enough rain, families lose a vital source of income, which ends up affecting global scale. More than half of the people who go hungry in the world are poor and subsistence farmers who live in rural areas that take care of land that is three quarters of a soccer field or smaller.

When families face increasingly intense poverty, they need all members to help grow, store and sell their crops. This often means that children are taken out of school so they can carry water and work in the fields.

Children who miss education have fewer job prospects, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and hunger.

2. Competition for food and resources leads to violence and conflict.

Conflict is the number one cause of hunger in the world. The climatic shocks are the second. Its causes and effects are closely related. 40 percent of civil wars or internal conflicts are the result of competition for food and resource shortages. When extreme weather pushes people to despair, it creates a powder magazine for violence.

When it explodes, it can lead to the fall in the value of the currency, an increase in inflation and unemployment and the infrastructure falling apart.

Without these economic pillars, food becomes scarce or prohibitive, which pushes the population vulnerable to hunger.

3. Environments in which you cannot live push families to leave their homes.

The orchards are dried. The houses are washed away. Farms and fishing areas are flooded. When families lose everything and face inevitable hunger, they leave their homes in search of food, security and opportunities. As climatic extremes such as droughts, hurricanes and floods become more frequent and more serious, more people will have no choice but to leave their homes.

Extreme weather is expected to displace almost 150 million people by 2050.

4. Hunger strikes women more, perpetuating gender inequality.

Surveys in a wide range of countries have shown that between 85 and 90 percent of the time spent at home in the preparation of food is for women. In addition, in many places, outdated gender norms mean that women go hungry when food is scarce.

When water resources run out from droughts or heat waves, it is often women who have to walk farther to collect clean water for their families, and girls leave school to help. In times of crisis, women's access to help can be hampered by gender discrimination and sexual violence.

In some countries, tradition dictates that women eat the latter, after all male members and children have done so.

5. Economic instability is both cause and effect of hunger.

Poor communities lack resources and assets to face the impact of climate extremes. For them, there is nothing like home insurance.

When a disaster strikes, they are at a great disadvantage in the long and slow process of rebuilding their lives, which quickly leads to economic instability and hunger.

Climate extremes create the scenario for widespread food insecurity and civil conflict. WFP resilience programs address these extremes from every possible angle. These are just a few:

– Food for resources. Through this program, people are offered food in exchange for work in community resources such as bridges, dams and irrigation systems. These projects help communities cope with extreme weather and have extra benefits such as promoting nutrition and gender equality.

– Land rehabilitation. WFP helps communities restore degraded land, diversify their crops and build community gardens. A project in South Sudan increased agricultural land by 27 percent in just two years to the equivalent of more than 17,000 soccer fields.

– Waste of food. In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers lose up to 40 percent of their harvest during the dry season, which lasts longer each year. Airtight containers now allow them to cope with the lack of rain and store their grain for months, reducing their losses to less than 3 percent.

You can support these efforts. Climate change is not on its way, it is already here. To learn more about what WFP is doing to help people cope, you can visit our Climate Change and Hunger page .