You’re hearing a lot about it. But what does ‘food security’ actually mean?
Empty plates. Empty glasses. Empty stomachs.
Millions of people are suffering due to the devastating and unprecedented hunger crisis.
They’re running out of food, money and time.
For the first time in decades, the Global Hunger Index shows that world hunger is increasing.
An estimated 193 million people are in urgent need of food assistance in 53 countries alone. Nearly 26 million children under the age of five are suffering from wasting, including five million children at risk of dying from severe wasting. See the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises
Climate change is making extreme weather like drought more frequent and driving hunger to unprecedented levels, while the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have led to soaring food, fuel and fertilizer prices. What's more, children and women are among the most affected by this crisis.
“We really are at a tipping point for hunger,” says Plan International CEO Stephen Omollo. “If life-saving humanitarian assistance is not urgently stepped up, 300,000 people could starve to death every single day. This means humanitarian organizations are facing an impossible choice between feeding the hungry and feeding the starving. We must act, and we must act now.”
But what does that even mean? Watch this video to find out why girls are at a heightened risk, and then read on to find out what you can do about it.
What is food security?
Food security is when all people have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food – food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
For someone to be considered "food secure" means they consistently have enough food available – plus the resources to obtain, use and access food for an extended time.
Food insecurity is the inability to acquire safe and nutritious food. Food insecurity can become acute, or even lead to famine, when there is conflict, extreme weather, or seasonal or cyclical stresses.
Take the Horn of Africa as an example. Four consecutive rainy seasons have now failed, and the region is now facing its worst drought in 40 years. The situation is particularly dire in the southern Ethiopian zone of Borena. Haiti is another example: the country’s hurricane season, which runs from June to November, limits local crops and forces families to rely on imports to fulfill 60% of their nutritional needs.
What are the five phases of food security?
At a time when the world produces enough food to feed everyone, up to 811 million people — more than 10 per cent of the world’s population — still go to bed hungry every night. Women and girls make up 60 percent of acutely food insecure people globally. Food insecurity can transform into famine. This doesn't happen overnight. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a tool meant to improve food security, nutrition analysis and decision-making, there are five phases:
Phase 1: None or minimal food insecurity: Households can meet essential and non-essential food needs.
Phase 2: Stress: Households are unable to afford some non-food essentials.
Phase 3: Crisis: Food consumption gaps cause malnutrition, or households are having to use assets that are essential to making a living to instead marginally meet minimal food needs.
Phase 4: Emergency: Large food consumption gaps result in high acute malnutrition and mortality, or households are having to sell off essential assets and try all possible coping strategies.
Phase 5: Catastrophe / Famine: At catastrophe / famine, households have an extreme lack of food or other basic needs, even after trying all other possible coping strategies. Famine is eventually declared when malnutrition is widespread, and when people have started dying of starvation because of a lack of access to sufficient, nutritious food.
“Hunger crises should be prevented immediately,” says Dr. Tanjina Mirza, Plan International Canada’s Chief Programs Officer. “If we don’t take action, millions of children will die. Urgent humanitarian action is needed right now.”
What can we do?
Plan International is stepping up our response in Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Lebanon, South Sudan, Somalia, Zambia, Bangladesh and Mozambique — countries that are bearing the brunt of this global hunger crisis. We’re rapidly scaling up programs such as nutrition support, cash and voucher assistance, food distributions, child protection, school meal programs and livelihoods support.
We’ve also joined forces with the Humanitarian Coalition — 12 Canadian charities collaborating to respond to humanitarian disasters — to address this catastrophe before it’s too late. And we’re calling on world leaders to urgently scale up funding to prevent a global hunger crisis.
But to reach food insecure areas with critical support, we need help from donors urgently.
The government of Canada will match all donations (up to $5 million) made by July 17. Donate now to make a difference.
Join our mailing list to receive updates
By signing up you agree to receive our emails.