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World leaders need to prioritize humanitarian funding as acute hunger hits record levels
by IPC, World Food Program, agencies
3:00pm 2nd Aug, 2023
The United Nations World Food Program has been forced to cut food, cash payments and assistance to millions of people in many countries because of “a crippling funding crisis” that has seen its donations fall by about half as acute hunger is hitting record levels, a top official said Friday.
Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Program, told a news conference that at least 38 of the 86 countries where WFP operates have already seen cuts or plan to cut assistance soon — including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and West Africa.
He said WFP’s operating requirement is $20 billion to deliver food assistance to reach 171.5 million people in great need, but it was being forced to plan for between $10 billion and $14 billion this year.
“We’re still aiming at that, but we have only so far this year gotten to about half of that, around $5 billion,” Skau said.
He said humanitarian needs were “going through the roof” in 2021 and 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine and its global implications. “Those needs continue to grow, those drivers are still there,” he said, “but the funding is drying up. So we’re looking at 2024 being even more dire.”
“The largest food and nutrition crisis in history today persists,” Skau said. “This year, 345 million people continue to be acutely food insecure while hundreds of millions of people are at risk of worsening hunger.”
Carl Skau said conflict and insecurity remain the primary drivers of acute hunger around the world, along with climate change, unrelenting natural disasters, persistent food price inflation and mounting debt stress — all during a slowdown in the global economy.
He urged the agency’s traditional donors to “step up and support us through this very difficult time.”
Asked why funding was drying up, Skau said to ask the donors. “But it’s clear that aid budgets, humanitarian budgets, both in Europe and the United States, are not where they were in 2021-2022”.
Mr. Skau said that in March, WFP was forced to cut rations from 75% to 50% for communities in Afghanistan facing emergency levels of hunger, and in May it was forced to cut food for 8 million people — 66% of the people it was assisting. Now, it is helping just 5 million people, he said.
In Syria, 5.5 million people who relied on WFP for food were already on 50% rations, Skau said, and in July the agency cut all rations to 2.5 million of them. In the Palestinian territories, WFP cut its cash assistance by 20% in May and in June. It cut its caseload by 60%, or 200,000 people. And in Yemen, he said, a huge funding gap will force WFP to cut aid to 7 million people as early as August.
In West Africa, where acute hunger is on the rise, Skau said, most countries are facing extensive ration cuts, particularly WFP’s seven largest crisis operations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.
He said cutting aid to people who are only at the hunger level of crisis to help save those literally starving or in the category of catastrophic hunger means that those dropped will rapidly fall into the emergency and catastrophe categories, “and so we will have an additional humanitarian emergency on our hands down the road.”
“Ration cuts are clearly not the way to go forward,” Skau said.
He urged world leaders to prioritize humanitarian funding and invest in long-tern solutions to conflicts, poverty, development and other root causes of the current crisis.
Nov 2023
Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity, November 2023 to April 2024 outlook
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warn that acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in 18 hunger hotspots – comprising a total of 22 countries during the outlook period from November 2023 to April 2024.
Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan and the Sudan remain at highest concern levels. Palestine was added to the list of countries/territories of highest concern due to the severe escalation of conflict in October 2023. These hotspots have populations that are facing or projected to face starvation (Catastrophe, Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC]/Cadre Harmonisé [CH] Phase 5) or are at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions during the outlook period, given they have populations already facing critical food insecurity (Emergency, IPC/CH Phase 4) and are facing severe aggravating factors. These countries require urgent attention.
Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Pakistan, Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen are hotspots of very high concern. All these hotspots have a high number of people facing or projected to face critical levels of acute food insecurity, coupled with worsening drivers that are expected to further intensify life‐threatening conditions in the coming months.
Since the May 2023 edition, Chad, Djibouti, the Niger, Palestine and Zimbabwe have been added to the list of hunger hotspot countries/ territories, while the countries in the Dry Corridor of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) and Malawi remain hunger hotspot countries. The countries/territories and situations covered in this report highlight the most significant deteriorations of hunger expected in the outlook period, but do not represent all countries or territories with high levels of acute food insecurity.
Armed violence, in particular the trend of increased civilian targeting, will likely continue to underpin the ongoing upward trajectory in global displacement. The ongoing hostilities in the Gaza Strip are expected to further intensify and exacerbate the already dramatic humanitarian implications for the population in the outlook period, with the risk of potentially wider regional implications.
Instability and violence continue to surge in the Sahel region, from the recent coups in Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger to the unabating conflict in the Sudan affecting neighbouring countries like Chad.
Between July and September 2023, the region accounted for 22 percent of all global fatalities generated by conflict. The requested withdrawal and ongoing drawdown of peacekeeping missions from Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia could amplify security voids, permitting increased non‐state armed group (NSAG) activities and attacks against civilians, and could cause constraints to humanitarian operations.
Insecurity and conflicts are poised to exacerbate already restricted access to, and availability of, food – through displacement, the disruption of markets and livelihoods, and especially the reduction or abandonment of cultivated areas, contributing to deepening protracted food crises.
International food prices remain high by historic standards, and are expected to come under increased upward pressure in the coming months due to oil price dynamics and the impact of El Nino conditions on agricultural production.
Ongoing or planned reductions and gaps in emergency food, agriculture and livelihood assistance affect several hunger hotspots of very high concern and highest concern, such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Palestine, Somalia, the Syrian Arabic Republic and Yemen, other hunger hotspots, such as Malawi, and countries or situations that require monitoring, such as Uganda and Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh).
Weather extremes, such as heavy rains, tropical storms, cyclones, flooding, drought and increased climate variability, remain significant drivers of acute food insecurity in some countries and regions.
The El Nino climatic shift has already had a negative impact on various regions, notably Southeast Asia and Latin America, and is anticipated to persist in the upcoming six months, notably affecting regions in East Africa, Southern Africa and Latin America. Continuous monitoring of forecasts and their impacts on production remains critical.
Urgent and scaled-up assistance is required in all 18 hunger hotspots to increase access to food and protect livelihoods. This is essential to avert a further deterioration of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. In the hotspots of highest concern, humanitarian support and actions are critical in preventing further starvation and death.
Sep. 2023
Global Food Crises – mid-year update 2023: hunger and malnutrition levels remain alarmingly high - 238 million people across 48 food crisis countries face high levels of acute food insecurity
The Global Report on Food Crises (GFRC) 2023, in its mid-year update confirms the disheartening reality of the world's food crisis. As conflicts, economic shocks, and extreme weather events continue to wreak havoc alongside persisting vulnerabilities, millions of people continue to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
The updated report provides the latest data on acute food insecurity for 2023, building on the May 2023 edition, which laid down the data for 2022. The new report covers the period from January to August 2023 and provides new updates on the state of acute food insecurity.
The mid-year update of the GRFC presents some stark statistics:
Almost 238 million people across 48 food crisis countries faced high levels of acute food insecurity as of early August 2023, affecting nearly 1 in 5 individuals of the analysed population, a similar proportion as the one observed in 2022.
The 10 worst food crisis countries in this report are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Sudan and Somalia. Myanmar, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Ukraine, which were among the 10 hardest hit countries in 2022, have not been included in the mid-year update due to insufficient data on acute food insecurity in 2023.
East Africa remains the worst-hit food crisis region, with nearly 65 million people facing high levels of acute food insecurity (an increase of 8 million people since 2022), primarily due to the ongoing conflict in Sudan, which has displaced 3.5 million people since April.
Some countries have shown improvements in acute food insecurity conditions between 2022 and August 2023. Sri Lanka and Niger recorded the most substantial reductions, with 2.4 and 1.1 million people respectively experiencing improved conditions.
In the 21 food crisis countries where data was available, approximately 27.2 million children under the age of five suffered from acute malnutrition by August 2023. Of these, 7.2 million were severely malnourished and in urgent need of treatment.
Drivers of acute food insecurity
The mid-year update report identifies three main types of shock that, when combined with a high proportion of vulnerable populations in food crisis countries, serve as the main drivers of acute food insecurity. These shocks are conflict / insecurity, economic related shocks and weather extremes.
Conflict and insecurity: remains the leading driver of food insecurity, impacting eight out of the 10 worst-hit food crisis countries. Additionally, Russia’s decision to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative has raised uncertainty on global food market prices in the coming months. The recent coup d'etat in the Niger is expected to reverse the recent food security improvements at country level and further exacerbate acute food insecurity in the wider region.
Economic shocks: Despite slightly lower global food prices in 2022, high food prices in domestic markets continue to affect populations. Particularly in low-income countries, high levels of public debt further limit governments’ ability to import food and mitigate the impact of high food prices on vulnerable populations. Economic shocks are now driving acute food insecurity across all regions.
Weather extremes: These have been a key driver of acute food insecurity in all regions except West Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa. The impending El Niño event sets the stage for increased global temperatures and more intense weather extremes over the next nine to 12 months.
This mid-year update of the Global Report on Food Crises 2023 underscores the urgent need for international cooperation and concerted efforts to address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition. Collaboration amongst agencies is imperative to provide immediate relief to those in need while striving for long-term solutions to mitigate the impact of these crises.
25 July 2023
Global hunger remains unacceptably high, says Reena Ghelan - UN Famine Prevention and Response Coordinator
We are now halfway through a year marked by large, sudden-onset emergencies, including the Turkiye-Syria earthquake and the crisis in Sudan. Despite these crises contributing to the growing needs globally, humanitarian appeals were only 21 per cent funded by mid-July, a situation similar to last year’s when funding gaps hit communities affected by food crises, notably in the Horn of Africa.
In addition, the United Nations Secretary General has warned that hundred of millions facing hunger will pay the price following the recent decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative. He further said that the Initiative, “has been a lifeline for global food security in a troubled world”.
For many, the past few months have also served as a wake-up call about the climate emergency. People choked through wildfires’ smoke in Northern America, while communities in South Asia suffered through yet another historic
heatwave. At a time when global hunger remains unacceptably high – as evidenced by the recent report on the State of the Food Security and Nutrition 2023 - it is urgent to act on climate, as one of the drivers, if we want to reach the global goal of zero hunger by 2030.
Vulnerable countries are not only hit hard by the climate emergency but also by the debt crisis. UNCTAD’s recently published report showed that debt servicing is more unsustainable and expensive for low-income countries. These countries face the impossible choice of servicing their debt or serving their people. Contingency financing and debt restructuring are essential to help countries in crises strengthen sustainable food security.
And yet, amid this grim picture we are seeing glimmers of hope. From Niger to Somalia, women-led organizations are taking the lead in spearheading innovation. Local organizations are building climate resilience on the frontlines. They demonstrate the need for development and humanitarian partners to support change and communities to fight and prevent famine.
The numbers of people facing emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 4) and of countries with populations facing catastrophic conditions (IPC/CH Phase 5) have been increasing almost steadily since 2016.
According to the latest famine and protracted IPC/CH Emergency analysis produced by the Global Network Against Food Crises, the most severe levels of acute food insecurity and acute malnutrition are found in parts of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. Too often, these levels have been sustained for a prolonged period.
Over 10.3 million people in these areas are in Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4), and 129,000 people are in Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5) as of June 2023. Immediate action is critical in order to save lives and protect livelihoods, and prevent further deterioration into catastrophic conditions.
Focus on the Sahel and the Horn of Africa
Over 55 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda were acutely food insecure (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) last year, according to the latest IGAD Regional Focus report. Food crises are forecasted to escalate across the region in 2023, particularly in Kenya and Somalia. The worsening situation is attributed to the compounding effects of multiple shocks, including climate extremes and disasters, conflict and insecurity, and economic shocks. The impact of the conflict in Sudan is likely to further deteriorate the regional food crisis situation.
The food crisis in West Africa and the Sahel is also alarming. The CILSS Regional Focus report highlights that over 28 million people in 13 countries faced acute food and nutrition insecurity between March and May 2023. These represent the highest levels of acute hunger since the first Cadre Harmonise analysis in 2013. Projections for 2023 paint a grim picture. Up to 41.47 million people in 16 countries are expected to be acutely food insecure and need humanitarian assistance during the June–August 2023 lean season. Of these, approximately 45,200 people in Burkina Faso and Mali are expected to face catastrophic levels of food insecurity. (IPC/CH Phase 5).
Famine Prevention needs an all-hands-on-deck approach
The global food crisis was at the centre of the conversations at the 2023 Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), held from 21 to 23 June 2023 in Geneva. The discussions brought together Member States, the UN, a broad range of humanitarian and development partners, local community representatives, as well as representatives from the private sector and the academia. They provided an opportunity to discuss meaningful, locally-driven and people-centred solutions to preventing famine.
Several red threads emerged, including the need to address the key drivers of the global food crisis through political solutions to end conflict and mitigate its impact, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The importance of scaling anticipatory action to save lives, and the criticality of local actors - particularly women-led organizations - in driving sustainable impact was highlighted throughout.
Overall, the notion of not being to “humanitarian our way out of the current humanitarian situation” was prevalent, with a strong focus on the need for an all-hands-on-deck approach to preventing famine in 2023 through holistic solutions and resilient agri-food systems.
Speaking at the High-Level Panel, the UN Famine Prevention and Response Coordinator, Reena Ghelani, highlighted five areas for action.
• First, redouble global efforts to prevent, reduce and end conflict and violence. Conflict remains the main driver of hunger for 117 million people in 19 countries, almost half of those affected and it absorbs almost 80 per cent of food sector aid.
• Second, invest seriously in climate adaptation and mitigation in the most vulnerable countries. Climate change is the main driver of hunger for 57 million people, and while its impact will continue to be most acutely felt in the poorest and most crisis-affected countries, only a fraction of development or climate finance goes to such contexts.
• Third, address the social, governance and economic factors that fuel those crises. Economic factors are the main driver of hunger for 84 million people, almost triple the number compared to 2021. Around 60 percent of low income countries are in or at high risk of debt distress, leaving limited resources to address the crises in their own countries.
• Fourth, place women and girls at the centre of our efforts to combat these crises. Closing the gender gap in agriculture inputs alone could lift approximately 100-150 million people out of hunger and reduce poverty rates by between 12 and 25 percent.
• And fifth, the humanitarian and development community must be faster, better and less riskaverse. Only a third of development aid goes to countries with food crises. When it does, only 11 percent is channelled to the food or agriculture sectors, and not enough of it is invested in rural areas where 80 percent of the most food insecure people live. Humanitarian response, meanwhile, is funded at less than 21 percent and is not sufficiently focused on anticipatory action, resilience and sustainability.
As the UN Secretary-General recently noted, a world without extreme poverty or hunger could be within reach. We have the information, expertise and technology to achieve that. What we need now is the collective commitment and hard work and the tough choices to make it happen.
We can’t fight famine without gender equality
Gender equality is threatened by the current hunger emergency. There are now about 150 million more hungry women and girls than men, and the gender gap is increasing quickly.
A series of recent reports, including OCHA’s Gendered Drivers, Risks and Impacts of Food Insecurity, Beyond Hunger and FAO’s Status of Women in Agrifood Systems, lay bare the disproportionate impacts of the global hunger crisis on women and girls, including in the areas of education, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive health.
Women working in agrifood systems often face marginalization, as well as worse working conditions and pay than men. Women also have less secure tenure over land and less access to credit and training. Despite their active role and crucial contributions in food systems and climate action, women often lack access to decision-making and leadership positions.
We must elevate the voices of women’s organizations active in food security, and to ensure their leadership role is acknowledged and promoted through mutual support, funding, and a better access to land, credit and productive assets. Women and girls hold the key to fighting famine. We need to start listening to them.
* 30 June 2023: WFP Global Operational Response Plan: Update #8 - June 2023
The largest food and nutrition crisis in history continues to deepen its impact, 345 million people will be acutely food insecure this year and millions of people at risk of worsening hunger.
Conflicts, climate change and disasters, economic instability and financial crises – all compounded by the current funding crisis – converge in an overwhelming polycrisis driving the global food crisis.
An estimated 40.4 million people across 51 countries are in Emergency or worse levels of acute food insecurity in 2023. Without urgent life-saving action, these populations will be at risk of falling into catastrophe or famine conditions.
As of 2 June, WFP plans to reach 171.5 million people with full rations for the remainder of this year. This is an increase of 21.9 million people as compared to the February edition of this report, including recent adjustments from Corporate Scale-ups in Sudan and DRC.
An expected funding shortfall of a staggering 60 percent is already hampering activities, resulting in ration and caseload cuts in all regions. 2023 will be marked by very hard prioritization calls, as needs by far outpace funding levels.
June 2023
Acute food insecurity is set to increase in magnitude and severity in 18 hunger "Hotspots" comprising a total of 22 countries, for the period June to November 2023 a new UN early warning report has found.
The report spotlights the risk of a spill-over of the Sudan crisis - raising the risk of negative impacts in neighbouring countries, shows that deepening economic shocks continue to drive low- and middle-income nations deeper into crisis, and warns that a likely El Nino climatic phenomenon is raising fears of climate extremes in vulnerable countries around the globe.
The report also found that many hotspots are facing growing hunger and highlights the worrying multiplier effect that simultaneous and overlapping shocks are having on acute food insecurity. Conflict, climate extremes, and economic shocks continue to drive more and more communities into crisis.
The report, 'Hunger Hotspots - FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity issued today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) calls for urgent humanitarian action to save lives and livelihoods and prevent starvation and death in hotspots where acute hunger is at a high risk of worsening from June to November 2023.
"Not only are more people in more places around the world going hungry, but the severity of the hunger they face is worse than ever," said Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Program.
"This report makes it clear: we must act now to save lives, help people adapt to a changing climate, and ultimately prevent famine. If we don't, the results will be catastrophic," Mr Skau warned.
"Business-as-usual pathways are no longer an option, if we want ensure that no one is left behind." said QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General. "We need to provide immediate interventions to pull people from the brink of hunger, help them rebuild their lives, and provide long-term solutions to address the root causes of food insecurity," he added.
The report warns of a major risk of El Nino conditions, which meteorologists forecast to emerge by mid-2023 with an 82 percent probability. The expected shift in climate patterns will have significant implications for several hotspots, including below-average rains in the Dry Corridor of Central America, and raises the spectre of consecutive extreme climatic events hitting areas of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
The spill-over from the crisis in the Sudan is driving massive population displacement and hunger among people forced from their homes in search of refuge and those hosting them -- the report warns. More than one million people are expected to flee the country while an additional 2.5 million inside the Sudan set to face acute hunger in coming months.
Sudan was already hosting over one million refugees -- and if the conflict persists hundreds of thousands are likely to return to their counties of origin -- many of which are already in the grips of underfunded and protracted refugee crises, compounded by social, political and economic stressors.
Supply routes for commercial and relief goods in and out of Port Sudan are being disrupted by insecurity, putting in jeopardy humanitarian assistance flows and regional relief efforts, the report notes.
Disruptions to trade, cross-border commercial activities, and supply chains risk also driving up prices and inflation and depleting foreign exchange reserves in several countries -- particularly in South Sudan -- a country that relies on Port Sudan for both commercial and humanitarian imports, as well as vital oil exports.
The report warns that displacement into neighbouring countries and disruptions to trade risk also driving tensions among displaced people, those hosting them and new arrivals, as many hard-hit countries are already grappling with significant numbers of displaced people competing for limited livelihood and labour opportunities -- particularly Chad and South Sudan - where fragile sociopolitical environments are at risk of deteriorating.
Economic shocks and stressors continue to drive acute hunger in almost all hotspots, reflecting global trends that are carrying over from 2022 when economic risks were driving hunger in more countries and for more people than conflict was. These risks are largely linked to the socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effect from the war in Ukraine.
2023 is expected to bring a global economic slowdown amid monetary tightening in high-income countries -- increasing the cost of credit, weakening local currencies, and further exacerbating the debt crisis in low- and middle-income economies.
The International Monetary Fund projects global GDP growth at 2.8 percent in 2023 -- the lowest level in ten years besides the COVID-19 induced plunge in 2020. Sub-Saharan Africa GDP will also grow 0.3 percent less than in 2022. Low- and middle- income countries are expected to be hit the hardest by the projected slow growth in their main export markets, alongside inflation rate hikes in high-income economies that will rely heavily on exports to advanced economies.
With global food prices likely to remain elevated compared with historical standards in coming months, macroeconomic pressures in low- and middle-income countries are unlikely to ease. This means that the subsequent drop in purchasing power will negatively affect families' access to food in coming months in many hotspots.
Key Findings
According to the report, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen remain at the highest alert level. Haiti, the Sahel (Burkina Faso and Mali) and Sudan have been elevated to the highest concern levels; this is due to severe movement restrictions to people and goods in Burkina Faso, Haiti and Mali, and the recent outbreak of conflict in the Sudan.
All hotspots at the highest level have communities facing or projected to face starvation, or are at risk of sliding towards catastrophic conditions, given they have already emergency levels of food insecurity and are facing severe aggravating factors. These hotspots require the most urgent attention, the report warns.
The Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan and Syria are hotspots with very high concern, and the alert is also extended to Myanmar in this edition. All these hotspots have a large number of people facing critical acute food insecurity, coupled with worsening drivers that are expected to further intensify life‑threatening conditions in the coming months. Lebanon has been added to the list of hotspots, joining Malawi and Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) that remain hotspots.
Scaling up humanitarian action to prevent disasters
To avert a further deterioration of acute hunger and malnutrition, the report provides country-specific recommendations on priorities for immediate emergency response to save lives, prevent famine and protect livelihoods, as well as anticipatory action.
Humanitarian action will be critical in preventing starvation and death -- particularly in the highest alert hotspots, but the report notes how humanitarian access is constrained by insecurity, bureaucratic barriers, and movement restrictions - posing a major challenge to humanitarian responders around the globe.
The report also stresses the importance of strengthening anticipatory action in humanitarian and development assistance - ensuring predictable hazards do not become full-blown humanitarian disasters.

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