UN agencies warn of rising levels of acute hunger with potential risk of famine in four hotspots

Rome – The world has been placed on a heightened famine warning with a new report by two United Nations agencies containing a stern warning; four countries contain areas that could soon fall into famine if conditions there undergo further deterioration in the coming months. It is Burkina Faso in West Africa’s Sahel region, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

The early warning analysis of acute food insecurity points – issued today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) – describes a toxic combination of conflict, economic decline, climate extremes and the COVID 19 pandemic that drives people further into the emergency phase of food insecurity.

Parts of the population in the four hotspots most concerned are already experiencing a critical famine situation, and the report warns that escalations in conflict as well as a further reduction in humanitarian access could lead to the risk of famine.

But these four countries are by far not the only red flag on a world map showing that acute food insecurity levels are reaching new highs worldwide, driven by a combination of factors, the report said. Another 16 countries are at high risk of increasing levels of acute hunger.

The purpose of the Hotspots report is to notify urgent action within three to six months from today to avoid a serious emergency – or a series of emergencies. How the situation develops in the highest risk countries will depend on conflict dynamics, food prices and the myriad consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on their food systems, rainfall and harvest outcomes, humanitarian access and the willingness of donors to continue the financing of humanitarian operations.

“This report is a clear call for urgent action,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s director of emergency and resilience. ‘We are deeply concerned about the combined impact of several crises that are undermining people’s ability to produce and undermine food, putting them at greater risk of suffering from extreme hunger. We need access to these populations to ensure they have food and the means to produce food and improve their livelihoods to prevent a worst case. ”

“We are at a catastrophic turning point. Once again, we are at the same time at risk of famine in four different parts of the world. When we declare a famine, it means that many lives have already been lost. If we wait to make sure, people are already dead, ”said Margot van der Velden, director of emergencies at the WFP.

“In 2011, Somalia suffered a famine that killed 260,000 people. The famine was declared in July, but most people died already in May. We can not make this happen again. We have a slim choice; urgent action today, or unscrupulous loss of life tomorrow, ”she warned.

Negative trends across the board

In total, the joint report points to a total of 20 countries and contexts that have ‘further jeopardized acute food insecurity’, with the main drivers of hunger, including the expansion and intensification of violence, exacerbating economic crises by COVID-19 socio-economic impact. , extremes of the weather, cross-border threats such as desert locusts and a lack of humanitarian access.

It is noted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo there are currently 22 million people who are food safe – the highest number ever registered in one country. Burkina Faso registered the largest increase with the number of desperate hungry people almost tripling compared to 2019, driven by increasing conflict, displacement and COVID-related impact on employment and access to food.

The situation is also dire in Yemen, where the existing food insecurity coupled with conflict and a deepening economic crisis could lead to a further deterioration of an already critical food security situation.

Disaster / famine is the worst of five phases used by the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system to map the growing degree of food insecurity. When this extreme phase is declared, it means that people have already started to starve. The Hotspots report says that unless urgent action is taken now, the world could face its first famine since it was last declared in 2017 in parts of South Sudan.

This new report was developed under the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) – an alliance of humanitarian and development actors launched by the European Union, FAO and WFP in 2016 to address the causes of food crises through shared analysis and knowledge, strengthened coordination in evidence-based responses and collective efforts on the humanitarian, development and peace front.


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