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Ayaan Mahamuud Muuse (30) with her youngest child Nasriin (17 months) in Odweiyng, Togdheer, Somaliland. (Photo: Ed Ram / Concern Worldwide)Ayaan Mahamuud Muuse (30) with her youngest child Nasriin (17 months) in Odweiyng, Togdheer, Somaliland. (Photo: Ed Ram / Concern Worldwide)Ayaan Mahamuud Muuse (30) with her youngest child Nasriin (17 months) in Odweiyng, Togdheer, Somaliland. (Photo: Ed Ram / Concern Worldwide)

Everything you need to know about World Food Day

Everything you need to know about World Food Day
Story16 October 2023

First celebrated in 1979, World Food Day takes place annually on October 16 and promotes awareness of hunger and action for the future of food, people, and the planet. 

Here’s what you need to know about the holiday’s significance and history, how Concern is marking World Food Day 2023, and how you can get involved. 

Ruth Ngoyi, 25, and her vegetables
Ruth Ngoyi, 25, and her vegetables for sale at the central market of the town of Manono, Tanganyika Province. Photo: Hugh Kinsella Cunningham / Concern Worldwide.

What is the theme for World Food Day 2023?

This year’s World Food Day theme is water, under the slogan: “Water is life, water is food.” 

Many of the countries hit hardest by climate change are those whose citizens rely on agriculture and pastoralism, both for their livelihoods and for their own meals. The global water crisis — an offset of the climate crisis — is one of the biggest contributors to world hunger as it stands today. August 2023 was the warmest August on record for more than a century of data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Centres for Environmental Information, exacerbating conditions in drought-plagued areas around the world. 

Here are a few ways that this year’s World Food Day theme resonates in some of the countries where Concern works. 

Water is life in Afghanistan

Child uses handwashing station in Afghanistan
A little boy washes his hands at one of Concern's stations in Afghanistan. Photo: Stefanie Glinski / Concern Worldwide

UNOCHA reports that drought is one of the most common effects of climate change in Afghanistan, and rising. In 2021, it affected 39% of families. One year later, it was affecting 64%, with 25 of the country’s 34 provinces experiencing either severe or catastrophic drought conditions. This has left fully half of the country’s population without enough food, and some 6 million on the brink of famine

Water is life in the Horn of Africa

A man standing next to an irrigation project in the desert region of Somaliland
Mubarak Mohamed, Concern Programmes and Coordination Manager, in the water project in Dhidhid, Borama District Awdal in Somaliland. Photo: Ed Ram / Concern Worldwide.

After five consecutive failed rainy seasons in the region, the Horn of Africa (including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia) has faced the worst drought since 1981. Last autumn’s failed “short” rainy season led to a truly unprecedented situation not seen in recent history. While this spring’s “long” rains were more successful, they also led to flooding in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, which were just as detrimental to the farmers and pastoralists in the area. 

This contributed to a hunger crisis affecting 20.1 million Ethiopians, 4.4 million Kenyans, and 7.1 million Somalis. “Where drought leads, hunger is never far behind,” said Concern Somalia Country Director Abdi Rashid Haji-Nur last year. Food needs remain high as families recover from years of lost crops and livestock. 

» More on the Horn of Africa crisis

Water is life in Malawi

Malawi farmer with solar powered irrigation pump that has enabled him to grow more food.
Mcfreson Aaron, a farmer in Malawi, explains how he uses the solar powered irrigation pump and other climate smart agricultural practices help him and his village. Photo: Chris Gagnon/Concern Worldwide

According to the country’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs, Malawi has experienced 10 droughts since 1975, eight of which were major. The most severe have occurred over the last 30 years, with a 1992 drought affecting 7 million and a 2015 drought impacting 6.7 million. 

It’s an ongoing problem in the country, while other parts suffer from extreme rains and cyclones of increasing frequency and destruction (such as 2019’s Cyclone Idai). Both situations have created food shortages for 5.4 million people. The 2015 drought led to the country facing what the UN called the worst food crisis in a decade. 

Water is life in Pakistan

Farmer in Sindh planting seeds
Maula Dinno sprinkles seeds in his cotton field in Sindh. Photo: Zoral Khurram Naik/DEC/Concern Worldwide

Pakistan is another country on the frontlines of the climate crisis, particularly when it comes to water shortages and scarcity. While agriculture accounts for just under 19% of the country’s GDP, it employs more than 42% of its labour force (67% of Pakistanis live in rural areas). The country has recently come out of another major drought, which lasted from 2021 to 2022, and was hit by cataclysmic flooding at the end of last summer. This, combined with economic turmoil, led the UN to announce earlier this year that nearly 5 million people were on the brink of famine. 

Why is World Food Day important?

The proverbial “now-more-than-ever” applies to World Food Day’s importance. Initially established to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Food Day goes hand-in-hand with the FAO’s mission to end world hunger and improve the standard of living for people living in rural areas. 

It also goes hand-in-hand with the missions of organisations that work with the FAO, like Concern. October 16 is a touchpoint for NGOs — and for the world; a reminder that hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition are among the most pressing issues of our time, and getting worse the closer we get to the 2030 goal of Zero Hunger.

» Related: Why is it important to end world hunger?

World Food Day at Concern

Teachers and children using Concern-installed tap outside school to wash hands
The borehole water system, powered by solar panels, was implemented by Concern Worldwide and sustains 460 households in the village. The borehole also provides water for Naoros Primary School. The borehole provides water for five days after being turned on, and the water is treated with chlorine via a special pump. Photo: Natalia Jidovanu/Concern Worldwide

Concern’s annual Global Hunger Index, co-published with Welthungerhilfe, is usually launched on World Food Day (it launched a few days earlier this year). An award-winning “report card” for world hunger, the GHI measures hunger based on four key indicators: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality rates.

With the GHI also comes our annual ranking of the hungriest countries in the world — countries with the highest GHI scores indicating strong levels of hunger and malnourishment. We also offer takeaways and policy recommendations, based on each year’s data, to help global progress towards Zero Hunger. 

How to celebrate World Food Day

World Food Day is a great reason to learn more about the state of world hunger in 2023. In addition to reviewing the GHI and our top 10 hungriest countries, linked above, see below for a few other resources that you can read and share today (and every other day!).

People gather with jerrycans and other containers to collect water from a tanker cistern in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip

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