What the cost of living crisis looks like around the world

What the cost of living crisis looks like around the world

The ‘cost of living crisis’ is now a familiar phrase as prices of everyday goods have increased dramatically in recent years. In the U.S., prices remain high while consumer prices have been increasing around the world, too, with average global inflation at 6.8% in 2023. This means that food, energy bills and rent are still getting more expensive for everyone. 

But while the global economy is forecast for a “soft landing” in 2024, countries where the IRC works, like Sudan, are facing a cost-of-living catastrophe on a whole different scale.

A year since conflict began in Sudan, the economy is on the brink of collapse, and spiraling prices for food and basic necessities are further contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Sudan’s cost of living catastrophe

Sudan ranks at the top of the IRC’s Emergency Watchlist for 2024, which analyzes and ranks the countries most likely to experience a deteriorating humanitarian crisis. After one year of fighting, the country is experiencing the world’s worst displacement crisis and one of the world’s worst hunger crisis. Humanitarian needs have more than doubled since the start of the conflict, leaving nearly 25 million people in need of urgent support.

Food prices are a significant problem within the wider crisis. A new report published by the IRC found that, while markets are stocked with food in many areas, people cannot afford to buy goods due to higher prices. Food prices have increased by 88%  since the war began—even in areas not directly affected by the conflict—and were already skyrocketing prior to the outbreak of war, evidenced by inflation reaching 359.1% in 2021.

Ali Muhammad Ali, 65, and his son meet with IRC community protection paralegal volunteer Kon Wien in Transit Center 2

“This war has affected me emotionally, financially, in every way.” Ali (pictured with his son) was forced to flee Sudan with his wife and children, leaving his family-run supermarket behind.

Photo: Fahmo Mohammed

Ali was forced to flee Sudan with his family. The conflict and economic situation meant their only option was to leave their lives behind, including their family business. “This war has affected me emotionally, financially, in every way,” he said, speaking to International Rescue Committee staff at a transit center in neighboring South Sudan.

Learn more about the crisis in Sudan.

People in Sudan urgently need cash assistance

Sudan is quickly becoming the world’s largest hunger crisis and emergency cash transfers offer a crucial lifeline. A report by the IRC and our regional partners found that while markets are well-stocked with food and goods, people are unable to afford them due to rapidly rising prices. 

Donate to support the IRC’s work in Sudan, including emergency cash assistance.

Afghanistan’s cost of living crisis

Since the shift in power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the country has experienced near economic collapse. Policies meant to isolate the Taliban by cutting off Afghanistan from the international financial system have crippled the national economy.

Ordinary Afghans have paid the price of an economic crisis that left millions of people without a source of income. People who had jobs and were self-sufficient are now relying on humanitarian aid. Poverty is extremely high across the country, with nearly 50% of Afghan households struggling to meet basic needs.

Noor* takes her daughter to the local market to purchase food for her and her children using the emergency cash assistance provided to her by the International Rescue Committee.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, Noor* takes her daughter food shopping using emergency cash from the IRC.

Photo: Kellie Ryan for the IRC

Noor* fled Kunduz Province with her three children when the Taliban came and conflict was raging. She had no time to bring any belongings except some clothes for her kids.

“I thank [the IRC] for what they have done for us so far,” she said after she received cash assistance in late 2021. “Today, I want to buy tea and sugar, onions, and things like that we need. It means that my kids will not starve to death. Now, they are hopeful.”

This is the crisis in Afghanistan.

The IRC in Afghanistan

The IRC works with thousands of villages and communities across twelve Afghan provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. In recent years, the IRC has become one of the leaders in family support programming in the country.

In 2023, the IRC in Afghanistan met a wide array of humanitarian needs, serving nearly 2 million clients with health services, over 250,000 with economic recovery and development aid, and almost 200,000 through educational programs. The IRC’s environmental programming reached close to 500,000 individuals, while family support services were extended to nearly 100,000 Afghans. Additionally, our emergency response efforts assisted almost 250,000 clients across the country.

Learn more about our programming in Afghanistan.

Lebanon’s cost of living crisis

One of the most severe inflation crises ever recorded has led to an economic collapse in Lebanon, leaving an increasing number of people unable to meet their basic needs. The economic turmoil in Lebanon also impacts the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have found safety in the country.

Since 2019, Lebanon’s GDP has shrunk 40% while consumer prices continue to soar, reaching inflation rates of 170% in 2022. Prices of goods have risen while the value of wages has fallen, forcing consumers to turn to importers who sell crucial goods, like fuel and medicine, on the black market.

The IRC in Lebanon

Since 2012, the IRC has been providing legal services, education, cash assistance, training and economic support for refugees and local communities.

Read more about the IRC in Lebanon.

Somalia’s cost of living crisis

Somalia’s economic outlook has been hampered by a series of shocks that have made it increasingly difficult for people to afford basic necessities. A series of climate-induced disasters and ongoing political unrest have left Somalis with an extreme cost of living crisis. 

Somalia’s recent drought was the longest and most severe in four decades, and its effects are expected to be protracted. The drought has impacted food supplies, with 4.3 million people facing crisis (or worse) levels of food insecurity.

Halima lost her cattle and her farm to drought in Somalia.

“Food prices fluctuate – high and low. When it’s high, we can’t afford to buy food.” Halima’s family were reliant on food grown on their farm but she lost her cattle and the farm to drought. They now live in a camp for displaced persons in Arladi, Somalia.

Photo: Mustafa Saeed for the IRC

Following the drought, heavy seasonal rains caused catastrophic flooding in late 2023, destroying farmland and forcing more than 706,000 people from their homes. Damages could reduce farming production and increase the risk of crop failures, driving decreased household purchasing power and high food costs at markets.

Learn more about what the people of Somalia are experiencing.

The IRC in Somalia

The IRC is scaling up our programs in Somalia to address drought and rising food insecurity. We provide health, nutrition, water and sanitation services; women’s protection and empowerment; and cash assistance to drought-affected populations across the country.

What is the International Rescue Committee?

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people affected by humanitarian crises to survive, recover and rebuild their lives.

Our cash relief program helps clients purchase basic necessities and regain control of their lives. Emergency cash assistance programs in places like Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Lebanon give families the power to choose how best to meet their own needs. Learn more about why cash assistance is a critical form of humanitarian aid.

*Names have been changed for client privacy

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