Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you

(Isaiah 58:6-8)


Driven by accelerating climate change – as well as by war and conflict, lack of democratic accountability, poverty, spiralling inequality, financial speculation, unsustainable debt and other structural economic injustices, and the lingering impacts of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic – hunger and famine are once again threatening the lives and futures of an increasing number of people and communities around the world.

The recently released Global Report on Food Crises 2023 documents the rise in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent food and livelihood assistance. It indicates that over a quarter of a billion people are facing acute hunger, with economic shocks and the war in Ukraine contributing to the increase. In 2022 around 258 million people across 58 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3-5[1]), up from 193 million people in 53 countries and territories in 2021. It is the fourth consecutive year in which the global population facing high levels of food insecurity has increased, with grave consequences especially for children and women who are invariably disproportionately affected. Unfortunately, additional emergency funding is often only mobilized once a Phase 5 Catastrophe/Famine is officially declared, by which time it is often too late to prevent severe humanitarian impacts.

This report confirms the alarming perspectives presented by UN experts at the executive committee’s meeting in November 2022, based on the report “Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity: October 2022 to January 2023 Outlook”.

Some of the worst affected countries (with at least 30% of the analysed population in IPC Phase 3 or above) include South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Haiti, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Lebanon, Somalia and Namibia.[2] The situation has in many contexts only deteriorated in the meantime, notably in Sudan, 24% of whose population was already experiencing severe food crisis conditions before the outbreak of armed conflict in April 2023.

Child malnutrition and wasting has greatly increased in the most affected places. Moreover, the global food crisis has worsened the undernutrition situation of adolescent girls and women whose livelihoods, income and access to nutritious food have been disproportionately affected by conflict, climate change, poverty and economic shocks.

The significant increase in acute food insecurity around the world is an emblematic expression of the converging global crises of climate, conflict and economic instability, the consequences of which represent an immediate threat to millions upon millions of lives.

Churches are often the first responders to emerging food crises in their own contexts. However, their resources and capacities are invariably inadequate relative to the need. Moreover, the shortfall in international humanitarian funding and support is increasing. Consequently, churches, and church-related humanitarian agencies struggle in food-insecure contexts to help meet the needs of increasingly vulnerable populations.

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting online 22-26 May 2023, therefore:

Urges the international community not to wait for a Famine (IPC/CH Phase 5) classification before mobilizing additional funding, since earlier intervention can help save many lives, livelihoods and communities that will otherwise be lost.

Appeals for a multilateral response to the systemic drivers of global food injustice – for the resolution of conflicts, for the prevention of speculation-driven economic shocks, for the reduction of poverty and rampant inequality, and for urgent and effective action to prevent climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss.

Asks the general secretary to intensify engagement with relevant intergovernmental partners, especially the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), in order to find ways in which the churches and the WCC may play a more effective role in mitigating the global food crisis, and may be better supported and equipped to play that role.

Recalls the 11th Assembly’s invitation to churches to join in a pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation and unity, and encourages all member churches to pray and to act together against hunger in their own contexts, and to combine their efforts in the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance ‘Food for Life’ campaign.

May your kingdom come.

May your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread

(Matthew 6:10-11)


[1] The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system comprises five phases: Phase 1 – Minimal; Phase 2 – Stressed; Phase 3 – Crisis; Phase 4 – Emergency; Phase 5 – Catastrophe/Famine

[2] These are countries with the highest severity of food crisis, being countries in which at least 30% of the analysed population are in IPC Phase 3 or above.