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  • In Conflict-Torn CAR, One Father Tells Of His Struggle To Save His Son

    More than a million people in the Central African Republic (CAR) risk going hungry after months of conflict. Since January, the World Food Programme and its partners have been providing food assistance to 300,000 people across the country. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, hiding out in the bush for fear armed groups will attack them. Here is one man's story.

    BOSSANGOA DISTRICT - Walter Samba remembers the exact moment his world fell apart: it was just past noon on a September day and he was on holiday with his family in Gbakaba village, in the west of the Central African Republic.

    That was when the armed men arrived.

    “They started shooting and setting the houses on fire. We had no choice but to run into the bush. Some people in the village were killed,” said Samba, who fled to the bush with his wife and two-year-old son.

    They remained in hiding for nearly two months, sleeping under trees or in makeshift shelters that offered little protection from the mosquitos, rain and cold. Sometimes, the adults would emerge from the bush, in groups of two or three, to seek food in their abandoned villages.

    Samba, who described himself as a student in his 20s, knew he could not remain in hiding forever. His son was getting weaker. 

    Praying for Wheels

    Samba’s story is just one among tens of thousands of tales of displacement, fear and need in the Central African Republic. More than 395,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in recent months, losing access to their fields, shops, businesses, education and health care services.

    Many are still hiding in the bush for fear of attacks by armed groups from all sides. But for Samba, staying was not an option.

    His son had skin ailments and was losing weight because of the scarcity of food. Samba and his wife decided to take the child to hospital in the capital Bangui, 265 kilometers away. But they couldn’t get there without a car; for two weeks, as they spent the daylight hours waiting by the side of the road in Gbakaba, they did not see a single vehicle.

    Because of the conflict, few commercial transporters dare to run the gauntlet of armed groups who prey on villages, looting farms and killing civilians. But then on November 6, a UN mission arrived to assess the security situation in Gbakaba.

    “Every morning, we carry the child to the village. We hide around and wait and pray for a vehicle to pass by. It’s really tough!” Samba told the visitors. The UN team arranged for Samba and his family to be taken by car to Bangui for treatment.

    As their car drove into the capital city, Samba whispered: “Something needs to be done so quickly to end the violence in our village. We cannot continue living in the bush like that.”

    Since January, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have been providing emergency food assistance to some 40,000 displaced people who have taken refuge in relatively secure, accessible areas across CAR. WFP is also providing food assistance to refugees, malnourished women and children.

    The needs are great: Around 1.1 million people cannot meet their daily food needs and risk going hungry. A recent study, conducted by the UN, NGOs and the government of CAR, warned that the situation could worsen because of poor harvests and a drastic slowdown in economic activity.

  • Bolivia: From The Orchard To The Cooking Pot

    Hundreds of newly constructed gardens are producing nutritious fruit and vegetables for families and communities in the Santa Cruz area of eastern Bolivia. Managed by the families and communities themselves, the gardens were built as part of a pilot project that WFP supported with food vouchers, allowing the recipients to concentrate on their futures rather than their immediate food needs.

    SAN JULIAN (eastern Bolivia) -- Demetria Sipe has lived for 19 years in the community of 2 de Agosto in the municipality of San Julian, Santa Cruz. Originally from the highlands, her family migrated to this locality during a program to populate the lowlands. Regardless she preserves the original ethnic clothing of the women from the western region of Bolivia. Demetria proudly and happily showed us her garden.

    Even well after the completion of the project, the orchard continues to bear fruit. Demetria uses the produce every day in her meals. While she was constructing the home garden and participating in nutrition education workshops, Demetria received WFP vouchers, that she could exchange for food. With the vouchers, she could buy more expensive products, the most appreciated of which was quinoa.

    In Demetria’s native department of Oruro, quinoa was the base of a family’s diet. That's where the grain-like crop is cultivated. When she relocated to her current home, quino, was not only scarce, but also it was more expensive. “Thanks to the vouchers I have had the opportunity to purchase quinoa, allowing me to prepare this amazing food and childhood favorite for my children. With the products that I have redeemed with the food vouchers, plus vegetables from my garden, now me and my family are eating better," assured Demetria. 

    The Benefits of the Garden 
    Martha Carrasco, president of the association of women in the community 2 de Agosto, underlines that even with the project now over, the women within the community continue to produce and maintain their gardens. They value them and the opportunities they offer for themselves and their families. They provide a varied supply of vegetables, additional income from the sale of surplus and household savings. 

    Community Gardens: Together We Can Do More
    The communal gardens are also proving to be prosperous. Women and some men organize themselves during the week, so they can dedicate a couple of hours to the gardens. Not all produce the same crops; the community has started an exchange of garden produce to give themselves more variety of vegetables.

    “Together we can do more”, said Emiliana Sánchez from the community of El Carmen, where there is a communal garden. “Everyone produces something different and we help each other by exchanging vegetables that improve our children's diet. Everything that we produce here goes straight from the garden to the cooking pot,” Emiliana assured. 

    The pilot food voucher project lasted for about eight months. In that time, 300 family and community gardens in 12 communities in the municipality of San Julián were constructed. Also, WFP supported the reforestation of 57 hectares on the banks of the Rio Grande and the construction of defensive barriers to protect the land from flooding. The pilot project was funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and with the support of the Food Safety and Disaster Attention Unit (SAAD) of the Autonomous Departmental Government of Santa Cruz.

  • What Causes Hunger?

    The world produces enough to feed the entire global population of 7 billion people. And yet, one person in eight on the planet goes to bed hungry each night. So why does hunger exist?

    ROME -- There are many reasons for the presence of hunger in the world and they are often interconnected. Here are six that we think are important.

    Poverty trap

    People living in poverty can't afford nutritious food for themselves and their families. This makes them weaker, physically and mentally, so they are less able to earn the money that would help them escape poverty and hunger. The effects can be long-lasting. Children who are chronically malnourished, or ‘stunted’, often grow upto be adults whose incomes are lower. They are condemned to a life of poverty and hunger.

    Similarly, in developing countries, farmers often can't afford seeds, so they cannot plant the crops that would provide for their families. They may have to cultivate crops without the tools and fertilizers they need. Others have no land or water or education. In short, the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.

    Lack of investment in agriculture

    Too many developing countries lack the roads, warehouses and irrigation systems that would help them overcome hunger. Without this key infrastructure, communities are left facing high transport costs, a lack of storage facilities and unreliable water supplies -- all of which conspire to limit farmers' yields and families' access to food.

    Investments in improving land management, using water more efficiently and making more resistant seed types available can bring big improvements. 

    In fact, research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows that investment in agriculture is five times more effective in reducing poverty and hunger than investment in any other sector.

    Climate and weather

    Natural disasters such as floods, tropical storms and long periods of drought are on the increase -- with calamitous consequences for the hungry poor in developing countries. Drought is already one of the most common causes of food shortages in the world.

    In 2011, peristent lack of rain caused crop failures and heavy livestock losses in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In 2012 there was a similar situation in the Sahel region of West Africa.

    In many countries, climate change is exacerbating already tough conditions. The world's fertile farmland is under threat from erosion, salination and desertification. Meanwhile, deforestation by human hands accelerates the erosion of land which could be used for growing food.

    War and displacement

    Across the globe, conflicts consistently disrupt farming and food production. Fighting also forces millions of people to flee their homes, leading to hunger emergencies as the displaced find themselves without the means to feed themselves. The conflict in Syria is a recent example.

    In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon. Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields are often mined and water wells contaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land.

    Ongoing conflict in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo has contributed significantly to the level of hunger in the two countries. By comparison, hunger is on the retreat in more peaceful parts of Africa such as Ghana and Rwanda.

    Unstable markets

    In recent years, the price of food products has been very unstable. Roller-coaster food prices make it difficult for the poorest people to get nutritious food consistently - which is exactly what they need to do. Families need access to adequate food all year round. Price spikes, on the other hand, may temporarily put food out of reach, which can have lasting consequences for small children.

    When prices rise, consumers often shift to cheaper, less-nutritious foods, heightening the risks of micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition

    Food wastage

    One third of all food produced (1.3 billion tons) is never consumed. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security in a world where one in 8 is hungry.

    Producing this food also uses up precious natural resources that we need to feed the planet. Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River. Producing this food also adds 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, with consequences for the climate and, ultimately, for food production.

    Want to know more about hunger? Go to wfp.org/hunger and find out about the Zero Hunger Challenge by clicking on the banner below.

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