By Jaya Ramachandran
ROME (IDN) — A new report by two UN agencies has identified “hunger hotspots” across 20 countries and regions where parts of the population are expected to face a significant deterioration of acute food insecurity in the coming months that will put their lives and livelihoods at risk. This warning of spiralling uncertainty relates to areas where conflict, economic shocks, natural hazards, political instability, and limited humanitarian access, are hard-hitting.
The Hunger Hotspots Report issued on January 27 by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), warns that Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen remain the countries of highest concern. All four countries have areas where people are experiencing or projected to experience, starvation and death (IPC Phase 5), requiring the most urgent attention.
The links between hunger and conflict are complex and far-reaching, says the report. In fact, many of the people that WFP supports are fleeing conflict and have been forced to abandon their land, homes, and jobs. These trends are likely to continue in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central Sahel, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, the northern parts of Ethiopia, Nigeria and Mozambique.
Climate and food prices
Another upsetting trend is the impact of climate extremes. For WFP and FAO, climate change “is no longer a glimpse into the future, but the daily reality for communities around the world”. This can already be seen in Haiti, Eastern Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, and recently in Afghanistan’s western region of Badghis. At the same time, post-pandemic economic challenges persist and will continue to drive food prices higher, cautions the report.
Despite a brief decline in mid-2021, world food prices have been rising since May 2020. The areas of most concern are the Near East, North Africa and Central and Eastern Asia.
Humanitarian access constraints and complex security environments, continue to pose a challenge to operations in Ethiopia, Mali, northern Nigeria, Niger and Syria, and are likely to linger in the Central African Republic and Colombia, warns the report.
The landlocked country in east/central Africa, South Sudan is considered to be one of the four countries of highest concern, where conflict and constrained humanitarian access, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic challenges, and elevated food prices, are worsening the situation.
Communities there have also had to grapple with severe flooding that has caused widespread displacement, damage to agricultural production, the destruction of livelihoods and compounded existing issues in many regions.
In Nigeria, insecurity and high inflation rates are aggravating acute food insecurity. The situation is of highest concern in conflict-affected Borno State, where around 13,500 people are projected to slide into catastrophic acute food insecurity if humanitarian and livelihood-building interventions are not sustained.
There has been no update for Ethiopia since the July-September 2021 projection when experts concluded that 401,000 people in the Tigray region would likely be facing famine-like conditions. For FAO and WFP, this lack of data is of serious concern. Already the last report had identified, acute food insecurity levels are likely to have increased and could further rise beyond the Emergency and Catastrophic levels.
Due to the toxic mix of conflict and economic decline, hunger is also mounting in Yemen. As a result, half of all Yemeni families are now consuming less food than what is required.
The cost of a minimum food basket in Government-controlled governorates has more than doubled. This decline is driven by the nearly depleted foreign currency reserves, which make it harder to import food.
Increased humanitarian assistance between April and July of 2021 helped stabilize food security levels, but key indicators show a deterioration in the second half of the year.
The FAO-WFP report also highlights the situation in Afghanistan, where projections show a record high of people facing critical levels of food insecurity. There is also a serious risk that part of the population will face starvation and death (IPC Phase 5) if the crisis is not contained.
22.8 million Afghans are facing acute food insecurity. By March, 8.7 million of those are expected to slide into critical levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4), more than double the number from the same time last year and a record high for the country.
The Horn of Africa, a region already prone to food insecurity, is now facing a third season of drought, driven by La Niña. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the worst affected countries, projections indicate that food insecurity will rise beyond the region’s already high levels by mid of year.
In the Sahel, a weak rainy season has severely affected crop and pasture development. More than 10.5 million people are projected to be at a crisis level or worse (CH Phase 3 and above), a 20 per cent increase compared to last year. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 January 2022]
Photo: A young woman carries water in a camp for displaced people in the Tillaberi region, Niger. © UNOCHA/Michele Cattani
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