Why food loss & waste is of global concern- a look at Yemen

Today is the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. It comes just as we are trying to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about a wake-up call on the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed. Globally, around 14 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted (11 percent in households, 5 percent in the food service and 2 percent in retail). Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger.

Reducing food loss and waste is essential in a world where the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise since 2014, and tons and tons of edible food is lost and/or wasted every day. We are throwing away food worth $940 billion per year, while 1 in 9 people currently struggle with hunger. For example, about one third of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million doesn’t know if they will have a meal every day, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief in Afghanistan. The threat of Taliban brutality, spiralling food prices, and a financial system in ‘free-fall’ means that “some 5 million people in north Afghanistan are in direct threat of dire famine”, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also said.

Similarly, at least 5 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and a further 16 million are headed toward starvation, as the country’s humanitarian crisis spirals out of control. The World Food Programme (WFP) has raised grave concerns about the number of people facing starvation over the coming weeks and months.

Imam Adam Kelwick, who is also a humanitarian aid worker for the NGO ‘Action For Humanity’ in Yemen, has described the situation as “desperate”. He visited al-Saba’een hospital, in the western city of Sana’a this month and said it was “full to the brink” with starving, malnourished children.

“They had to expand into other wards to accommodate all these children,” he said. “It was a horrific scene where there were beds full of children who looked like skeletons.

“It’s clear to see the situation is rapidly deteriorating and the reason children are so severely malnourishedis because their mothers are malnourished as well. Obviously, that means they are unable to breastfeed their children and they end up in this terrible situation.”

He said that even Yemeni families who are fortunate enough to have a source of income are facing the same food poverty.

“I spoke to one mother and although her family has employment and sources of income, it is very limited,” he said. “She had a small daughter called Hanan, who was 18 months old and weighed 5kg. She said their money doesn’t go anywhere any more. Prices for everything have increased. There is food in Yemen but it’s expensive and out of people’s budgets.”

He said the woman, who lives on the outskirts of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, told him her family earns $100 (£73) a month, but it is not enough to afford basic food supplies. Earlier this year, the UK cut aid to Yemen by 60%.

How can we waste food and be so excessive in our consumption when millions around the world are starving each day? It’s up to us to change our habits to make not wasting food a way of life. Wasting food means wasting money, labour and resources such as energy, land and water that go into producing the food. Wasting food also increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change. There is no doubt that the need to accelerate action to reduce food loss and waste is urgent. ImamsOnline encourages you to take action in stopping food loss and waste- do a good deed and save food! For the people. For the planet.

Sources: UN; The Guardian; EU Observer; AP News.

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