Global Report on Food Crises
by UN News, WFP, FAO, OCHA, IPC, agencies
The Global Report on Food Crises highlights the plight of millions of people who must fight every day against acute hunger and malnutrition.
For several years the number of people who cannot meet their daily food needs without humanitarian assistance has been rising, primarily driven by two factors: persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions and adverse climate events.
Climate-induced disasters, economic crises and, above all, armed conflict, continued to drive hunger rates and food insecurity in 2018.
More than 113 million people across 53 countries experienced acute hunger requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in 2018.
An additional 143 million people in a subset of 42 countries were found to be living in Stressed conditions on the cusp of acute hunger (IPC/CH Phase 2). They risked slipping into Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) if faced with a shock or stressor.
The worst food crises in 2018, in order of severity, were: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan and north Nigeria.
These eight countries accounted for two thirds of the total number of people facing acute food insecurity – amounting to nearly 72 million people. Countries in Africa remained disproportionally affected by food insecurity.
The figure of 113 million people represents a slight improvement over the number for 2017 presented in last year’s report, in which an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries faced acute hunger. Despite the slight decrease, over the past three years, the report has consistently shown that, year on year, more than 100 million people(2016, 2017 and 2018) have faced periods of acute hunger.The modest decrease between 2017 and 2018 is largely attributed to changes in climate shocks.
A number of highly exposed countries did not experience the intensity of climate-related shocks and stressors that they had experienced in 2017 when they variously faced severe drought, flooding, erratic rains and temperature rises brought on by the El Niño of 2015-16. These include countries in southern and eastern Africa, the Horn of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region.
High levels of acute and chronic malnutrition in children living in emergency conditions remained of grave concern. The immediate drivers of undernutrition include poor dietary intake and disease. Mothers and caregivers often face challenges in providing children with the key micronutrients they need at critical growth periods in food crises.
This is reflected in the dismally low number of children consuming a minimum acceptable diet in most of the countries profiled in this report.
Conflict and insecurity, climate shocks and economic turbulence – the main drivers of food insecurity – continued to erode livelihoods and destroy lives. Conflict and insecurity remained the key driver in 2018. Some 74 million people – two thirds of those facing acute hunger – were located in 21 countries and territories affected by conflict or insecurity. Around 33 million of these people were in 10 countries in Africa; over 27 million were in seven countries and territories in West Asia/Middle East; 13 million were in three countries in South/South-east Asia and 1.1 million in Eastern Europe.
Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into situations of acute food insecurity in 2018. As in previous years, most of these individuals were in Africa, where nearly 23 million people in 20 countries were acutely food insecure primarily due to climate shocks. Economic shocks were the primary driver of acute food insecurity for 10.2 million people, mainly in Burundi, the Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Food insecurity: short-term outlook for 2019
Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan and north Nigeria are expected to remain among the world’s most severe food crises in 2019.
Large segments of populations in most of these countries risk falling into Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity.
Climate shocks and conflict will continue driving food insecurity and are expected once again to severely affect several regions. Dry weather in parts of southern Africa and drought in Central America’s Dry Corridor have dampened prospects for agricultural output. El Niño conditions are likely to have an impact on agricultural production and food prices in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The needs of refugees and migrants in host countries are expected to remain significant in Bangladesh and the Syria regional crisis. The number of displaced people, refugees and migrants are expected to increase if the political and economic crisis persists in Venezuela.
Ending conflicts, empowering women, nourishing and educating children, improving rural infrastructure and reinforcing social safety-nets are essential for a resilient, stable and hunger-free world.
The potential for agricultural development and rural resilience-building to provide a buffer against crises – highlights the need for a new way of responding to food security challenges. Investments in conflict prevention and sustaining peace will save lives and livelihoods, reduce structural vulnerabilities and help address the root causes of hunger.
This report complements the evidence reported by The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 (SOFI), which identifies 821 million undernourished people. While the SOFI estimate provides the scale of chronic food insecurity worldwide, the Global Report on Food Crises focuses specifically on the most severe manifestations of acute food insecurity in the world’s most pressing food crises.
* Access the full report (200pp): http://bit.ly/2uHg67x
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Nearly two-thirds of children lack access to welfare safety net, risking ‘vicious cycle of poverty’
by Isabel Ortiz
UNICEF, International Labour Organization, agencies
Social protection is critical in helping children escape poverty and its devastating effects, yet, the vast majority of children have no effective social protection coverage, UNICEF and the ILO said in a new joint report.
Evidence shows clearly that cash transfers play a vital role in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability. Yet, globally only 35 per cent of children on average are covered by social protection which reaches 87 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, 66 per cent in the Americas, 28 per cent in Asia and 16 per cent in Africa.
At the same time, one in five children lives in extreme poverty (less than US$ 1.90 a day), and almost half of the world’s children live in ‘moderate’ poverty (under $3.10 a day). Almost everywhere, poverty disproportionately affects children, as they are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty.
The report calls for the rapid expansion of child and family benefits, with the aim of achieving universal social protection for children, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Such benefits are a key element of policies to improve access to nutrition, health and education, as well as reducing child labour and child poverty and vulnerability.
The report notes that universal social protection for children is not a privilege of wealthy countries. A number of developing countries have made or achieved (or nearly achieved) universal coverage, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mongolia and South Africa.
But in many other countries, social protection programmes for children struggle with limited coverage, inadequate benefit levels, fragmentation and weak institutionalization. Some governments undergoing fiscal consolidation are even cutting allowances, instead of extending benefits as countries had agreed in the SDGs.
“Child poverty can be reduced overnight with adequate social protection,” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of Social Protection, ILO. “To improve the lives of all children is an issue of priorities and political will: even the poorest countries have fiscal space to extend social protection floors.”
"Poverty hits children the hardest, since its consequences can last a lifetime. The poor nutrition and lost years of education that often result are tragic both for the individual and for his or her community and society,” said Alexandra Yuster, UNICEF Associate Director and Chief of Social Policy. “Countries need to put children first and reach every child with social protection to end poverty for good."
When Member States ratified the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed in 2015 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, they agreed to the global initiative’s top priority, namely eradicating poverty.
State benefits play vital role in preventing poverty
State benefits from public funds, in the form of cash grants, “play a vital role in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability”, the report insists. Of 139 countries covered by the report, on average, they spend 1.1 per cent of their wealth on children up to 14 years old.
“There is a huge underinvestment gap that needs to be covered,” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of the Social Protection Department at ILO. “The numbers worsen by region. In Africa, for instance, children represent 40 per cent of the African population overall, but only 0.6 per cent is actually invested in social protection for children.”
Children are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, the report continues, with lack of access to education and poor nutrition among the most significant long-term impacts.
“While social protection cash transfers are vital for children, they shouldn’t stand alone,” said David Stewart, Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection Unit at UNICEF. “They have to be combined with other services – if a child is living in a household with sufficient resources and if they don’t have access to educational health, it makes a big difference. So, it’s about combining these interventions together.”
A number of developing countries have made real progress in realising universal social protection programs. In Mongolia for example, which has achieved universal social protection for children, austerity measures threaten these gains however.
“Recently, due to fiscal pressures from international financial institutions, they have been advising the Government to target the universal benefit, Ms. Ortiz explained. “So it’s one of these cases where fiscal consolidation or austerity short-term…may be having long-term impacts on children. So the UN message is to try to look at the longer-term.”
Improving all children’s lives ‘is an issue of political will’
“Child poverty can be reduced overnight with adequate social protection,” Ms. Ortiz said, adding that improving the lives of all children “is an issue of priorities and political will – even the poorest countries have fiscal space to extend social protection”.
“Ultimately, the extension of social protection is always about Government’s will. It is because a Government realizes about the important developmental impacts of protecting people, particularly those that are vulnerable, across the lifecycle, so in times of childhood, in old age, in times of maternity, protections are particularly needed.”
* Isabel Ortiz is the Director of the Social Protection Department at ILO.
* Access the ILO, UNICEF report on children & social protection: http://bit.ly/2RFzxGN http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/only-one-third-children-covered-social-protection-ilo-unicef http://socialprotection-humanrights.org/ http://www.socialprotectionfloorscoalition.org/
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