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45 million people at risk of famine require urgent intervention
by World Food Programme (WFP), agencies
12:49pm 26th Nov, 2021
18 Feb. 2022
There is a ring of fire stretching around the world where conflict and climate shocks compounded by COVID and rising costs are driving millions of people to the brink of starvation - threatening to increase migration and instability globally this year, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley warned today.
“We have a ring of fire circling the earth now from the Sahel to South Sudan to Yemen, to Afghanistan, all the way around to Haiti and Central America,” Beasley said at a session of the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “If we do not address the situation immediately over the next 9 months we will see famine, we will see destabilization of nations and we will see mass migration. If we don’t do something we are going to pay a mighty big price.”
A total of 45 million people in 43 countries are teetering on the edge of famine with overall global needs for humanitarian assistance on a clear upward trend and are now higher than ever. Every region in the world is faced with the prospect of millions waking each day to empty plates, soaring food prices, economic downturn, ruined crops, and violent conflict knocking on their door.
As global hunger rates and humanitarian needs shoot ever higher, the resources required to meet them are levelling off. Just this month, a funding crunch has forced WFP to reduce the size of the food rations received by eight million people in Yemen. In the next few weeks there is a risk of further cuts. These come at the worst possible time as Yemenis deal with the consequences of a serious escalation in fighting and continued economic deterioration.
“We averted famine and catastrophe in 2021 and 2022 because nations stepped up. We thought COVID would be behind us by 2022, but it only recycled again, exacerbating, and creating economic catastrophes among the poorest countries around the world,” Beasley said. “WFP has the solutions and we’ve got the programmes to stop this crisis, we just need the money, otherwise nations around the world will pay for it a thousand-fold.”
In the last two years, the number of food insecure people has jumped from 135 million to 283 million. This could spike further. In this unprecedented year, WFP’s assistance that is a lifeline for families in emergencies has to grow together with an increased stress on changing lives through building resilience so that more poor people on the brink of hunger are not pushed over the edge. Such work stabilizes communities in particularly precarious places and helps them better to survive sudden shocks.
Jan. 2022
World Food Programme, FAO early warnings on acute food insecurity | February to May 2022 Outlook
For the outlook period from February to May 2022, FAO and WFP are issuing an early warning for urgent humanitarian action in 20 countries and situations – called "hunger hotspots" – where parts of the population are likely to face a significant deterioration of acute food insecurity in the coming months that will put their lives and livelihoods at risk.
Targeted humanitarian action is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods in the 20 hotspots. In four of these, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, humanitarian actions are critical to preventing starvation and death. The report provides country-specific recommendations on priorities for emergency response and anticipatory action to address existing humanitarian needs and ensure short-term protective interventions before new needs materialize.
27 Jan. 2022
Food insecurity soaring across 20 hunger hotspots. (UN News)
Food insecurity is soaring across 20 countries and regions - “hunger hotspots”, where conflict, economic shocks, natural hazards, political instability, and limited humanitarian access, are putting millions of lives at risk, UN agencies highlighted on Thursday.
According to the Hunger Hotspots Report from the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen remain the countries amongst the highest concern.
According to the most recent assessments, all four countries had areas where people were experiencing, or projected to experience, starvation and death (IPC Phase 5), requiring the most urgent attention.
The report shows that the links between hunger and conflict are complex and far-reaching. 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, 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 worrying 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, economic challenges post-pandemic, persist, and will continue to drive food prices higher.
Despite a brief decrease in mid-2021, world food prices have been rising since May 2020, with the areas of most concern, being 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.
In South Sudan, one of the four countries of highest concern, conflict and constrained humanitarian access, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic challenges, and elevated food prices, are worsening the situation.
Communities 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 people are projected to slide into catastrophic acute food insecurity if humanitarian and livelihood-building interventions are not sustained.
In Ethiopia during the July-September 2021 projection, experts assessed that 401,000 people in the Tigray region would likely be facing famine-like conditions.
Acute food insecurity levels are likely to have increased and could further rise beyond the Emergency and Catastrophic levels already identified in the last report.
Hunger is also mounting in Yemen due to the toxic mix of conflict and economic decline. 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.
The 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.
There are 22.8 million Afghans 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 Nina. 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 the year.
In the Sahel, a weak rainy season has severely affected crop and pasture development. Over 10.5 million people are projected to be at a crisis level or worse (CH Phase 3 and above), a 20 percent increase compared to last year.
Nov. 2021
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is warning that the number of people teetering on the edge of famine (IPC4/Emergency or worse) in 43 countries has risen to 45 million, as acute hunger spikes around the world. This number has risen from 42 million earlier in the year and 27 million in 2019.
“Tens of millions of people are staring into an abyss. We’ve got conflict, climate change and COVID-19 driving up the numbers of the acutely hungry, and the latest data show there are now more than 45 million people marching towards the brink of starvation,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a trip to Afghanistan, where WFP is ramping up its support to assist almost 23 million people.
“Fuel costs are up, food prices are soaring, fertilizer is more expensive, and all of this feeds into new crises like the one unfolding now in Afghanistan, as well as long-standing emergencies like Yemen and Syria,” he added.
WFP and its humanitarian partners are ramping up efforts to assist millions of people facing starvation. However, the needs are vastly surpassing available resources at a time when traditional funding streams are overstretched. The cost of averting famine globally now stands at US$ 7 billion, up from US$ 6.6 billion earlier in the year.
“As the cost of humanitarian assistance rises exponentially, we need more funds to reach families across the globe who have already exhausted their capacity to cope with extreme hunger,” he added.
Families facing acute food insecurity are also being forced to make devastating choices to cope with the rising hunger. WFP’s vulnerability analysis across the 43 countries shows families being forced to eat less, or skip meals entirely, feeding children over adults, and in some extreme cases being forced to eat locusts, wild leaves, or cactus to survive – as in Madagascar.
In other areas, families are forced to marry off children early or pull them out of school, sell off assets like livestock or what little else they have left. Meanwhile media reports from Afghanistan point to families reportedly being forced to sell their children in a desperate attempt to survive.
Food prices hit a ten-year high this month, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index. This not only pushes food out of reach for millions of the poorest around the globe, but it also increases the cost of procuring food on global markets. Added to this are the high prices of fuel which also increases transportation costs and places a further strain on global supply chains – shipping a container cost US$1,000 a year ago, but now costs US$4,000 or more.
This year, WFP has already been undertaking the biggest operation in its history – targeting 139 million people across the 85 countries where it operates. This work covers both emergency food and nutrition needs, as well as work with partners to build resilience and increase the self-reliance of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.
Increase Explained:
The increase from 42 to 45 million people is explained by recent food security assessment data that shows an additional 3 million people facing IPC4 in Afghanistan, alongside marginal increases in Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, Angola, Kenya, and Burundi (from 60,000 to 240,000 people).
Data on vulnerability and humanitarian needs are compiled from field-level food security assessments conducted via a consensus-based approach in partnership with multiple humanitarian agencies, including WFP. Sources include the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and equivalent analyses.
Snapshot on some major food crisis:
In Afghanistan, recent assessments show that almost 24 million people have been pushed into acute hunger – including 8.7 million in Emergency IPC4 – as the devastating impact of multiple droughts combine with an economic meltdown to push families to the edge just as the harsh winter sets in. WFP is ramping up its support to assist up to 23 million people and requires an estimated US$ 220 million a month in 2022.
In Ethiopia it was projected that more 4.3 million people across northern Ethiopia would be facing acute hunger by September with more than half of those – 2.2 million – in Emergency IPC4 or worse.
As conflict escalates and in the absence of any updated analysis, it’s expected that this situation has worsened significantly and up to 7 million people across northern Ethiopia are facing acute hunger. WFP requires US$245 million to respond across all three regions of Afar, Amhara, and Tigray.
In drought-hit southern Madagascar, where climate is driving famine-like conditions, severe hunger has touched over 1.3 million people, including 512,000 in Emergency IPC4 or worse. Delayed rains this planting season signal another poor harvest and despair for families who are resorting to survival measures such as eating locusts, wild leaves and cactus leaves which are usually fed to cattle. WFP is scaling up its response and urgently needs US$69 million over the next six months to reach one million people.
In South Sudan, humanitarian needs are outpacing the resources available for WFP to respond, and the situation has worsened as the country is battered by flooding that has swallowed entire villages. There are 7.2 million people who are severely food insecure (IPC3 or worse) with more than 1.4 million of those in Emergency IPC4 and more than 100,000 facing catastrophic (IPC5) levels of hunger.
WFP urgently requires US$568 million to maintain its operations for the next six months and significant funding gaps have already forced ration cuts so resources can be redirected to the most vulnerable people at risk of famine.
Some 12.4 million people in Syria do not know where their next meal will come from – a level of food insecurity higher than any time during the decade-long conflict. Conflict, mass population displacement, the impacts of the financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon, the decline in the value of the Syrian Pound and job losses due to COVID-19 have all contributed to Syria’s economic downturn. WFP is only 31 percent funded and urgently requires nearly US$700 million until February 2022 to continue to support some 5.8 million people who depend on WFP food assistance to survive.
Over half Yemen’s population (16.2 million) is now facing acute hunger with 5 million people facing Emergency IPC4. In addition to the ongoing conflict, the devaluation of the Yemeni riyal and soaring food prices have made it impossible for ordinary Yemenis to afford basic food.
WFP provides emergency food assistance – as in-kind rations, vouchers or cash – to nearly 13 million people. But nearly 3 million continue to receive assistance on alternate months due to funding shortfalls and WFP is at risk of running out of food before the end of the year. We need US$802 million to maintain current levels of assistance for the next 6 months.
Sept. 2021: Food Security Situation
USAID Integrated Food Security Phase Classification IPC Explainer:
IPC Phase 4: Emergency - At least 20 percent of households in an area are experiencing Phase 4 or worse outcomes, and acute malnutrition rates are expected to be between 15 and 30 percent. People are facing extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition and disease levels are excessively high, and the risk of hunger-related death is rapidly increasing.

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