Eight in ten Brits believe the UK has a moral duty to help combat global hunger but 55 percent were unaware that 345 million people are struggling to put food on the table, a survey found.
War in Ukraine, aftershocks from the pandemic, and climate change are all fuelling an unprecedented rise in people being pushed to the brink of starvation.
The number facing or at risk of acute food insecurity had soared from 135 million in 53 countries before the Covid outbreak to 345 million in 79 countries this year, according to the World Food Programme.
The Daily Express witnessed the devastating effects earlier this year in Somalia, where more than a million people had fled lands left barren by drought.
The research, involving more than 2,000 adults, was carried out by the Development Engagement Lab in partnership with United Against Malnutrition and Hunger and Save the Children UK.
READ MORE: Two-day-old baby Suldhano’s life already blighted by hunger crisis in Somalia
More than half of those polled believed the global hunger crisis could increase migration to the UK.
Callum Northcote, head of hunger and nutrition at Save the Children UK, said: “The data is very clear that the British public recognise how important it is to tackle hunger and malnutrition around the world.
“We’ve been calling for the UK Government to increase their support to regions, including parts of East Africa, that are impacted by the ongoing hunger crisis. As we head into 2024, the Government must keep its attention on this catastrophic crisis.”
Cuts to government spending on foreign aid have “disproportionately hit efforts to tackle malnutrition”, Save the Children UK warned.
The charity said Britain had previously played a key role in successful efforts to combat starvation, including between 1990 and 2015 when the number of people experiencing hunger decreased by half.
Mr Northcote added: “Taking forward the outcomes of the recent Global Food Security Summit will be an important step.
“Dedicated focus from the Government is now required to ensure continued impact.”
Jonny Oates, CEO of United Against Malnutrition and Hunger, said: “These new figures show that the British public consistently ranks action on malnutrition and hunger as a key priority for development.
“At this time of record levels of food insecurity, it is essential the UK Government reignites leadership to help halt this human tragedy. Our research shows the public would support this for moral reasons.
“But it is also in the nation’s interest. Access to good nutrition is foundational. Without it, solutions to the world’s most pressing problems including climate change, geopolitical security, and gender equality will stall.”
An FCDO Spokesperson said: “Too many children globally are going to bed hungry and the UK is determined to change that.
“Our international development white paper sets out our re-energised approach to preventing and treating child hunger, working with new sources of finance and harnessing the latest science and innovation.
“UK aid spending is due to increase to £8.3bn next year, with the budget for low income countries expected to nearly double in 2023/24, including in Africa where aid will rise from £646m to £1.364bn.
“We also announced an additional £16m more funding to the Child Nutrition Fund at the Global Food Summit earlier in the year.”