The poll, which launched at a reception in Parliament last night, had a sample size of over 2,000, and found more than half (58%) of respondents believe hunger could drive migration to the UK without action.
The findings follow data recently released by Save the Children which discovered that hunger ranks as the most concerning issue affecting children worldwide, according to surveyed adults. The aid agency conducted a poll of more than 25,000 adults across 13 countries and found that 45% identified hunger as the primary concern impacting children both domestically and globally.
Yet the UK public is largely unaware of the current global hunger and malnutrition crisis, a fact exposed in this latest research.
Earlier this year, the World Food Programme declared a global hunger crisis affecting 345 million people. Over half (55%) of respondents admitted they were unaware of this human catastrophe, compared to 38% who had heard of it.
Despite this lack of awareness, almost half of respondents (45%) believe the UK Government should do more to halt global hunger and malnutrition.
The world is currently experiencing record levels of global food insecurity fuelled by the combined impact of conflict, especially the invasion of Ukraine, Covid-19 and accelerating climate change. At the same time, the foreign aid budget has significantly reduced with funding targeted at malnutrition disproportionately cut by more than 60%.
Responding to the research findings, 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. Taking forward the outcomes of the recent Global Food Security Summit will be an important step.
“UK aid cuts disproportionately hit efforts to tackle malnutrition. Dedicated focus from the Government is now required to ensure continued impact.”
While the number of people facing emergency levels of hunger has doubled since 2020, the poll also shows that public awareness of success reducing hunger in previous decades is low. Fifty-five per cent of respondents said that between 1990 and 2015 the number of people experiencing global hunger and malnutrition in developing countries increased. In fact, during this period, the number of people experiencing hunger decreased by 50% with the UK Government’s action contributing to the reduction.
Jonny Oates Chief Executive Officer of UAMH launched the research at Building Momentum in the Fight Against Global Malnutrition, a reception in Parliament hosted by UAMH and partners including the APPG on Nutrition for Development.
He 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.”
Professor Jennifer Hudson, Director of the Development Engagement Lab, said: "The British public see hunger and malnutrition as a top issue of concern, but there is little understanding among the public of the progress that has been made in reducing poverty in recent decades and of the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, like economic insecurity and conflict and war.
"There is now an opportunity for both the British Government and international organisations to step up their efforts to help the public connect the dots and increase support for solutions that we know work well."
The findings come on Universal Health Coverage Day, which calls for primary health care services to be available to everyone without the risk of financial hardship. Malnutrition is responsible for around half of all deaths of children under the age of five. It can be stopped in its tracks by simple treatments such as micronutrient supplementation, or therapeutic foods.
This year has been significant for the global hunger and malnutrition crisis. The fragility of global food systems has been laid bare by the impact of war in Ukraine on the East Africa Hunger Crisis. Unrest in the Middle East has further highlighted the need for greater action on hunger and malnutrition.
Building on the recent Global Food Security Summit and International Development White Paper, the UK Government must continue to create and take opportunities for action to help turn the tide on this crisis.
It is vital momentum is maintained and delivers real results in 2024.