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A Yemeni child suffering extreme malnutrition is seen in a hospital

A Yemeni child suffering from acute malnutrition is seen in a hospital receiving treatment on March 22, 2022 in Sana'a, Yemen. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar Says 49 Million Facing Famine 'Should Be the Biggest Story in the World Right Now'

A United Nations study finds that Russia's war on Ukraine and the intensifying climate emergency have pushed the number of people facing famine globally to an all-time high.

Jake Johnson

The combination of a worsening climate emergency and Russia's war on Ukraine has helped push the number of people at risk of famine globally to an all-time high of up to 49 million, according to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program.

"This should be the biggest story in the world right now," U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Somali refugee, tweeted Monday in response to The Washington Post's story on the United Nations study, which warns that tens of millions of people in 46 countries are in need of "immediate life and livelihoods-saving assistance."

"Here are the impacts of climate change and fossil-fueled conflict: drought, starvation, and nearly 50 million people at risk of facing famine."

On Tuesday at 1 pm ET, Omar is set to hold a press conference on the domestic and global hunger crises and potential ways to redress them.

Published last week, the U.N. report points to "ripple effects from the war in Ukraine" and increasingly intense extreme weather events as key drivers of surging hunger worldwide as low-income countries attempt to grapple with unprecedented global food prices and avert humanitarian disaster.

"In view of the soaring input prices, concerns about the weather, and increased market uncertainties stemming from the war in Ukraine, FAO's latest forecasts point to a likely tightening of food markets and food import bills reaching a new record high," said Upali Galketi Aratchilage, an economist with the FAO.

The report notes that of the nearly 50 million people believed to be facing famine worldwide, 750,000 are already in "catastrophe"—the most dire phase of the U.N.'s food insecurity scale. Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are among the countries experiencing the worst acute hunger, the report states.

"In Eastern Africa, rainfall deficits of up to 60% of the average and prolonged dry spells recorded in large parts of Somalia, southern and eastern Ethiopia, and eastern Kenya since the start of the Gu rainy season (typically March to May) are likely to further exacerbate the food security situation," the report observes.

"Sri Lanka, West African coastal countries (Benin, Cabo Verde, and Guinea), Ukraine, and Zimbabwe have been added in the list of hot spot countries compared to the January 2022 edition of this report," the study adds.

The U.N. report also mentions Afghanistan, where the economy is on the brink of total collapse as the Biden administration continues to withhold the country's central bank assets despite worsening hunger, including among children.

"Recurrent La Niña events since late 2020 have impacted agricultural activities, causing crop and livestock losses in many parts of the world including Afghanistan and Eastern Africa," the study notes. "Although still uncertain, if La Niña conditions last until Northern Hemisphere autumn, it could also impact the start of the 2022-23 agricultural season and further worsen the food security situation."

Brian Lander, deputy director of WFP's emergencies division, told the Post that millions of people in low-income countries across the globe "literally don't know where their next meal is coming from."

"They're not countries where we have high industry. Not countries where we see mass production and degradation of the environment. It's countries that are living on very basic terms," Lander said. "They're not at fault. They're living the consequences of the West and the industry we've developed."

This story has been updated with news of Rep. Ilhan Omar's press conference.


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