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Food & Hunger

10 Moments That Shaped the World's Biggest Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II

Nearly half of all child deaths in the world are caused, either directly or indirectly, by hunger and malnutrition. Almost every single country in the world is facing a serious nutritional challenge — spanning from starvation to obesity. 

While 20 million people in the world this year are facing starvation and famine, a further 2 billion adults globally are overweight or obese, and 41 million children are overweight, according to the 2017 Global Nutrition Report

There is a lot of work to do, and 2017 has been a year of stark warnings. But it has also been a year of taking action to combat the escalating crisis. 

Take action: Children Are Starving and They Need Your Help

"We have a clear road map," said Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the UN and champion in the fight against malnutrition, in November. "We are more confident now than ever that ending malnutrition is possible." 

So, on a note of hope for change in the coming year, here are the 10 most importants moments to note from 2017 — as we look to learn from our mistakes and from our successes. 

1. The Oscars Helped Feed 800 People

When an Oscars after-party left hundreds of pounds of uneaten food , urgent action was needed to stop it all going to waste. 

Two organisations — Chefs to End Hunger and Copia — stepped in to save those parmesan funnel cakes, spicy gougeres topped with black truffle powder, and Oscar-shaped matzo crackers with smoked salmon, and to transform them into social good. 

Read more: Here's How Much Food Really Costs for People Around the World

The leftovers were distributed to communities in need, and ensured that 800 people didn’t go hungry. 

2. Leonardo DiCaprio Decided to Change the Way We Eat Seafood 

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The actor and environmental campaigner turned his attention to the world’s fish , investing in a seafood company that sells wholesale frozen fish raised in farms. 

The enormous demand on fish protein around the world has decimated fish populations. In fact, more than 85% of the world’s fisheries are endangered because of overfishing. 

Read more: Shark Fin Soup Is Pushing Sharks to Extinction — Yet It's Still Served

Leo hopes that by moving people’s eating behaviours towards sustainable fish farming — known as aquaculture — we could help change that, by boosting global fish production and meeting rising demand for fish products. 

3. Famine Caused Devastation

Yemen-Cholera-Outbreak-Famine.jpgImage: Mutaz Fuad/UNICEF

Some 20 million people faced starvation and famine across Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and parts of Nigeria in what the UN labelled the “worst humanitarian crisis since the second world war.” 

Meanwhile, Ethiopia and Kenya faced a severely unstable food situation due to droughts. 

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) called the food crisis in Ethiopia the worst malnutrition spike the organisation had ever seen in the country — with 7.8 million people in need of food aid.

Read more: The 10 Most Common Chronic Diseases All Have This One Thing in Common

While the international community rallied to contribute aid funding for emergency solutions, the UN said: “These crises are man-made, with their roots lying in conflict, and they require political solutions going beyond humanitarian assistance.” 

Wars and conflict in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria have contributed to the decimation and instability of the agricultural infrastructure, leaving millions without a source of food. 

4. This Heartbreaking Photograph Emerged of a 1-Month-Old Girl in Syria

(Warning: Upsetting content) 

An  image of a baby girl in Syria cast light on the quiet tragedy of Syria’s humanitarian crisis. 

Tiny Sahar Dofdaa weighed just two kilograms when she died from starvation in October, in one of the last parts of Syria held by armed groups that oppose the government.

Sahar was reportedly too weak to cry. Her mother was so undernourished she couldn’t breastfeed her, and her parents were too poor to pay for milk or supplements. They could do nothing to save their only child, who died at a hospital in the eastern Ghouta city of Hamouria.

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Food and medical aid must be smuggled into eastern Ghouta, pushing up food prices to the point that families can’t even afford rice or other staples. 

Read more: How This Chef Is Helping Refugees One Dinner at a Time

5. $3.4 Billion Was Pledged to Tackle World Hunger

2017-Year-In-Photos-South-Sudan-Drought-05.jpgImage: Photo by Siegfried Modola/UNICEF

World leaders, NGOs, and businesses joined together to pledge $3.4 billion to tackle the world’s malnutrition crisis — which affects one in every three people globally. 

The pledges were announced at the Global Nutrition Summit, held in Milan in November, to accelerate what the world is doing to combat hunger and malnutrition. 

Read more: 15 People, Mostly Women, Killed in 'Stampede' to Receive Food Aid in Morocco

Governments from Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, and Madagascar committed to reach more people, specifically mothers and children, with domestic nutrition programmes, while philanthropic organisations in India and Nigeria promised to spend $150 million to tackle hunger in the two countries, which have the highest numbers of malnourished children. 

The UK will also be honouring all the commitments made at the London summit in 2013, including £575 million on nutrition specific programmes. 

6. George Clooney Spoke Up Against Famine

George Clooney, the husband of international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, spoke out in support of the fight against global famine. 

He urged people to donate to the Global Emergency Response Coalition campaign to support the estimated 20 million people facing starvation around the world. 

The Coalition — an alliance of eight of the world’s largest US-based aid organisations — was also formed in 2017. Together, they are working to deliver life-saving aid to the millions of children and families in need. 

Read more: George Clooney Is Shedding Light on the Crisis No One Is Talking About

“By giving we can inspire hope where hope is lost and make the world a better place,” said Clooney.

The Coalition warned in July that 1.4 million children face “imminent death” from the famine in Africa and Yemen, with one child dying every 10 minutes. 

7.  An Israeli Nurse Breastfed the Baby of an Injured Palestinian Woman

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 14.55.49.pngImage: Yadassah Hospital

A heroic Israeli nurse in a Jerusalem hospital showed in June that sometimes, differences don’t matter.

When she arrived for her night shift, she found a Palestinian woman had been brought into the hospital with a critical head injury following a car crash. 

With his mother unable to feed him, her baby, although he had only minor injuries, had no source of food. The 9-month-old’s aunts tried to feed him with a bottle, but he wouldn’t take it, and they were forced to sit and watch for seven hours as he cried.

But then Ola Ostrowski-Zak stepped in. With her own 18-month-old baby at home, she decided to feed the Palestinian baby herself. 

Read more: This Chef Thinks Hummus Can Bring Israel and Palestine Together

What’s more, when the nurse posted to Facebook asking more women to volunteer to help feed the baby, more than 1,000 women responded that they would drive to the hospital to help. 

8. 110 People Died of Malnutrition in Somalia in 48 Hours

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In 24 hours in March, 110 people in southwestern Somalia died from famine and diarrhoea. 

The country is on the verge of its third famine in the past 25 years. The last one, in 2011, took 260,000 lives. 

Read more: These Before and After Photos Show Just How Vital Foreign Aid Is in the Fight Against Hunger

The World Health Organisation (WHO) at the time reported that more than 6.2 million people in Somalia urgently needed humanitarian aid, with 3 million facing a crisis in food security. 

The lack of food and access to clean water left more than 360,000 children acutely malnourished. 70,000 of these required “urgent and life-saving support.” 

9. Google, Facebook, and Twitter Partnered Up to Fight Famine

Girl eating a plate of food, World Food ProgramImage: WFP/Rein Skullerud

In July, Facebook, Twitter, and Google joined up with the Global Emergency Response Coaltion (GERC), dedicated to fighting the hunger crisis. 

It’s the first time ever that a partnership on this scale, across relief organisations and private companies, has been dedicated solely to tackling food insecurity.

Read more: In 2017, People Asked Google for Help Making the World a Better Place

It shows that desperate times call for creative problem-solving, and a multi-pronged approach to solving world hunger. 

10. The Fight Against Food Waste Got Creative


2017 was the year that people and organisations got creative in the fight against food waste. There are so many great solutions that we thought we’d just lump them all together in one glorious section about the anti-food waste movement. 

France emerged as the world leader — for another year — in fighting food waste, in the Food Sustainability Index released in December. That’s largely thanks to its strict zero food waste policies, sustainable agricultural practices, and the healthy eating habits of its people. 

Apps joined the effort, making it easier than ever for people to share unwanted food with others before it goes bad. 

Read more: This Country Is Leading the World in Ending Food Waste

In New York, “Transfernation” brands itself as the city’s first tech-based on-demand food redistribution system. It allows corporate and social institutions to easily donate excess food from large events to local feeding programmes, so all that extra food can go to help feeding the hungry, rather than going straight in the bin. 

In the UK, “Olio” connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses , in order to share food that’s going spare. People can post their unwanted food on the app, and then someone who wants it can come to collect it. 

And supermarkets are also joining the fight. In December, British retailer Co-op announced that it would sell food that is past its “best before” date — the first major store in the UK to do so. 

Dried foods and tinned products — which are still “perfectly safe” to eat after the “best before” date — will be on sale for just 10p in the drive to tackle the amount of food that’s thrown away in Britain — around 7.3 million tonnes every year, according to the Food Standards Agency. 

So there we have it, 2017 in food — the highs and lows, and the inspirational steps that are being taken to help fight world hunger. Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN Global Goals, including for zero hunger. You can join us by taking action here