Report reveals gender hunger gap widening as global food crisis worsens

CARE International UK

09 August 2022


A new report by humanitarian charity CARE International has warned that at least 150 million more women go hungry than men as the global food crisis worsens

The report shines a light on a crucial but overlooked element of the global food security crisis, which is being fuelled by climate change, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. 

  • In 2018 there were 18 million more food insecure women than men, and data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation shows this jumped to 150 million in 2021. That means the gender hunger gap got 8.4 times wider in just three years.
  • Analysing data from 2021, this report shows that across 109 countries, as gender inequality goes up, food security goes down. This connection holds true across 3 major food security indexes and 4 different gender equality scores.
  • There is not enough global data on the links between gender and food. Of major datasets in the world, only the SDGs provide a platform to look at sex-disaggregated data around food security and agriculture production.
  • These data gaps have translated into real gaps in policy response. Of 84 food policies in December of 2021, only 4% refer to women as leaders who can play a role in food security. 39% of those policies overlook women entirely.

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and related shocks. In nearly two-thirds of countries, women are more likely than mento report food insecurity. Gender norms and roles mean that women are often responsible for their households’ food shopping and preparation, yet they might also be the ones to eat “last and least” in their household. Women report increased rates of violence when they are facing humanitarian crises, like food insecurity. The risk of intimate partner violence rises, as does the likelihood that women and girls are forced to engage in high-risk coping mechanisms like transactional sex or early marriage.

The report also highlights that, despite experiencing more hunger, women play a vital role in food production at all levels. Investments in women farmers, for example, have been shown to improve food security for the community as a whole. 

Suzy Madigan, Senior Humanitarian Advisor on Gender & Protection for CARE International, said:

“We know food prices are going up at home and abroad, we know there’s a real risk of wide-scale famine and people are already dying of hunger, but what’s rarely talked about is how unequally and unfairly this is experienced by women. 

“What’s really concerning is that this is a reversal of progress — until recently the gap was shrinking. That’s reflective of a reversal of gender equality gains more broadly, with the UN warning generations of progress by women’s rights movements is being undone.

“More women than men go hungry for the same reason more women than men live in poverty — they're denied their fair share of resources and opportunities. The pandemic has exacerbated this, with women bearing the brunt of job losses and income losses because they’re overrepresented in insecure work, among other reasons.

“Closing the gender hunger gap requires the same solutions as closing the gender gap overall — women must have equal rights, resources and opportunities. Without gender equality, women lose out on even the most basic of human needs: access to nutritious food.”

For media enquiries contact David Moore, Press Officer at CARE International UK.

The full report “Food Security and Gender Equality: A synergistic understudied symphony” can be accessed here