People's Stories Poverty

Acute food insecurity soars to five-year high warns Global Report on Food Crises
by Global Network Against Food Crisis
May 2021
The number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood-saving assistance has hit a five-year high in 2020 in countries beset by food crises, an annual report launched today by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) - an international alliance of the UN, the EU, governmental and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises together - has found. Conflict, economic shocks – including due to COVID-19, extreme weather – pushed at least 155 million people into acute food insecurity in 2020.
The stark warning from the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises reveals that conflict, or economic shocks that are often related to COVID-19 along with extreme weather, are continuing to push millions of people into acute food insecurity.
Report’s key findings:
The report reveals that at least 155 million people experienced acute food insecurity at Crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3 or worse) - or equivalent - across 55 countries/territories in 2020 - an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year, and raises a stark warning about a worrisome trend: acute food insecurity has kept up its relentless rise since 2017 - the first edition of the report.
Of these, around 133 000 people were in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity in 2020 – Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5) – in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen where urgent action was needed to avert widespread death and a collapse of livelihoods.
At least another 28 million people faced Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) level of acute food insecurity in 2020 – meaning they were one step away from starvation - across 38 countries/territories where urgent action saved lives and livelihoods, and prevented famine spreading.
Thirty-nine (39) countries/territories have experienced food crises during the five years that the GNAFC has been publishing its annual report; in these countries/territories, the population affected by high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or worse) increased from 94 to 147 million people between 2016 and 2020.
Additionally, in the 55 food-crisis countries/territories covered by the report, over 75 million children under five were stunted (too short) and over 15 million wasted (too thin) in 2020.
Countries in Africa remained disproportionally affected by acute food insecurity. Close to 98 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 - or two out of three - were on the African continent. But other parts of the world have also not been spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the ten worst food crises last year.
The key drivers behind rising acute food insecurity in 2020 were:
conflict (main driver pushing almost 100 million people into acute food insecurity in 20 countries/territories, up from 77 million in 2019);
economic shocks - often due to COVID-19 - replaced weather events as the second driver of acute food insecurity both in terms of numbers of people and countries affected (over 40 million people in 17 countries/territories, up from 24 million and 8 countries in 2019); and, weather extremes (around 16 million people in 15 countries/territories, down from 34 million in 25 countries/territories).
While conflict will remain the major driver of food crises in 2021, COVID-19 and related containment measures and weather extremes will continue to exacerbate acute food insecurity in fragile economies.
Statement from the Global Network Against Food Crises:
“One year after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for 2021 and beyond is grim. Conflict, pandemic-related restrictions fuelling economic hardship and the persistent threat of adverse weather conditions will likely continue driving food crises,” said the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) - founding members of the Global Network - together with USAID in a joint statement released with the report.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of the global food system and the need for more equitable, sustainable and resilient systems to nutritiously and consistently feed 8.5 billion people by 2030. A radical transformation of our agri-food systems is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“The protracted nature of most food crises shows that long-term environmental, social and economic trends compounded by increasing conflict and insecurity are eroding the resilience of agri-food systems. If current trends are not reversed, food crises will increase in frequency and severity”.
The Global Network emphasises the need to act urgently and decisively, and calls for the international community to mobilise against hunger.
“Conflict and hunger are mutually reinforcing. We need to tackle hunger and conflict together to solve either…We must do everything we can to end this vicious cycle. Addressing hunger is a foundation for stability and peace,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the foreword of the report.
* Acute food insecurity is when a person's inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger. It draws on internationally-accepted measures of extreme hunger, such as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and the Cadre Harmonisé. It is not the same as chronic hunger, as reported on each year by the UN's annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. Chronic hunger is when a person is unable to consume enough food over an extended period to maintain a normal, active lifestyle.

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‘People aren't starving, they are being starved’
by Peyvand Khorsandi
International Council of Voluntary Agencies, agencies
20 April 2021
Humanitarian agencies issue joint call for funds to avert famine
International Council of Voluntary Agencies rallies Oxfam, Save the Children and 258 other organizations after World Food Programme's warning on increasing levels of hunger.
Humanitarian agencies around the world have joined forces to warn that rising hunger levels are going to lead to famines unless urgent action is taken.
Oxfam, Save the Children and the International Red Cross are among 260 signatories to an open letter on famine prevention led by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA).
The letter, published in The Guardian today, has warned “people are not starving, they are being starved” in countries such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti and Zimbabwe.
“Girls and boys, men and women” are being “starved by conflict and violence ... by inequality, by the impacts of climate change, by the loss of land, jobs or prospects, by a fight against COVID-19 that has left them even further behind.”
It comes as the WFP marks a year since urged the UN Security Council to act fast over “famines of biblical proportions”.
“It is human actions that are driving famine and hunger and it is our actions that can stop the worst impacts,” the letter stated.
Addressing world leaders as the “main duty-bearers”, it called for the immediate injection of $5.5bn for food assistance to reach more than “34 million people around the globe who are a step away from famine.”
It added: “We plead with you to enhance your efforts and work with all parties to end conflict and violence in all its forms.”
The UN’s call for a global ceasefire “must be immediately heeded,” it went on. “Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach communities without barriers or impediments so we can urgently support those most in need.
“We urge you to invest in alleviating poverty and hunger, in giving people the tools they need to build more resilient futures for themselves, sustainably adapt to climate change and guard against the shocks of COVID-19. This will help to prevent future conflict and displacement. This will prevent future hunger and famines.”
Geeta Bandiphillips, Head of Advocacy at the WFP, said: “The letter sounds the alarm about the drastically increased levels of hunger and the humanitarian funding gap we are facing today.
She added the initiative is “inspired by the ‘Call for Action to Avert Famine’ issued by WFP and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organizations in March, highlighting the plight of up to 270 million people who were acutely food insecure or at high risk at the start of the year.”
Bandiphillips said: “34 million people are teetering on the very edge of famine, with the slightest shock set to push them to starvation in the absence of urgent, immediate life-saving action.”
WFP and FAO’s “bilateral donors must recommit to scaling-up aid to save lives,” she added.
The letter urges action to end conflicts and calls on all parties to ensure unhindered humanitarian access.
ICVA is a global network of non-governmental organisations whose mission is to make humanitarian action more principled and effective by working collectively and independently to influence policy and practice.
In pursuing the letter, the organization is “elevating the issue of imminent famines on the global agenda to secure political will for mitigation and prevention,” said Bandiphillips.
She added that “collective advocacy around famine prevention and mitigation has strongly resonated” with other humanitarian organizations — it is rare to get this level of support for any cause.”
Amb. Ahmed Shehu, Regional Coordinator for the Civil Society Network of Lake Chad Basin, a signatory to the letter, said: “The situation here is really dire — “70 percent of people in this region are farmers but they can’t access their land because of violence, so they can’t produce food. These farmers have been providing food for thousands for years – now they have become beggars themselves.
“Food production is lost, so jobs are lost, so income is lost, so people cannot buy the food. Then, we as aid workers cannot safely even get to people to help them. Some of our members risked the journey to reach starving communities and were abducted – we don’t know where they are. This has a huge impact on those of us desperate to help.”
Bandiphillips said: “This open letter gave us a chance to put our individual agency agendas aside and collectively campaign and advocate for a bigger cause. That is, collective inaction will increase the likelihood of multiple famines in 2021, putting more than 34 million people at risk of starvation.”
David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee, said: “The worsening rate of global hunger is horrifying to witness. Every day we are seeing the human cost of hunger play out in the countries where we work. World leaders must act now to prevent unprecedented levels of suffering, through increased funding and diplomatic efforts to end conflict and improve humanitarian access.”
CARE International Secretary General, Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro said: “Whether Yemen, Syria or the DRC, funding to respond to the hunger crisis is not materializing. Yet trillions are invested in rescue packages for corporates all over the world. Donors must step up. It is not a matter of affordability; it is a matter of political will.”
The letter concluded: “There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century. History will judge us all by the actions we take today.”
Other signatories to the letter included the International Red Cross and Islamic Relief.

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