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War in Ukraine pushes Middle East and North Africa deeper into hunger as food prices reach alarming
by World Food Programme (WFP), agencies
6 May 2022
War in Ukraine: WFP calls for ports to reopen as world faces deepening hunger crisis - Lifesaving food remains trapped while a record number of families struggle to survive.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for the immediate reopening of Black Sea ports – including Odesa – so that critical food from Ukraine can reach people facing acute food insecurity in countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen where millions are on the brink.
“We’re running out of time and the impact of inaction will be felt around the world for years to come,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the the World Food Programme.
Pointing to the rising costs of food, fuel and shipping, Beasley stressed no one is immune to the consequences of the ongoing war. Today, as record numbers of people wonder what they will eat tomorrow, harvests from Ukrainian farms are failing to be shipped to the destinations where they are needed most.
“Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation,” said Beasley.
Before the war, most of the food produced by Ukraine – enough to feed 400 million people – was exported through the country’s seven Black Sea ports. In the eight months before the conflict began, close to 51 million metric tons of grain passed through them, according to WFP.
“We have to open up these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine,” said Beasley. “The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on food that comes through these ports.”
Global food prices have risen sharply since the onset of the crisis. This will affect local food prices and people in the most vulnerable locations, on extremely tight budgets, are particularly at risk. In the month after the conflict started, export prices for wheat and maize rose by 22 percent and 20 percent respectively, on top of steep rises in 2021.
It comes in a year forecast, even before the war, to be one of catastrophic hunger with needs outpacing resources to help people going hungry across the world.
In West Africa, acute hunger is already at a ten-year high as the region struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – with costs already high, many will suffer as prices rise even further.
The ripple effect of the Ukraine crisis will worsen the food insecurity situation in East Africa, too – Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan are amongst those likely to be hardest hit due to their reliance on imports from Russia and Ukraine.
Food and oil price hikes are driving up WFP’s monthly operational costs by up to US$71 million a month, effectively reducing its ability to respond to hunger crises around the world.
“The war in Ukraine is a catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” said Beasley. “I urge all parties involved to allow this food to get out of Ukraine to where it’s desperately needed so we can avert the looming threat of famine.”
Apr. 2022
War in Ukraine pushes Middle East and North Africa deeper into hunger as food prices reach alarming highs. (WFP)
As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, the soaring cost of food staples in import-dependent Middle Eastern and North African countries is creating ever greater challenges for millions of families already struggling to keep hunger at bay, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.
Traditionally a month of festivities, when families gather over traditional foods to break their day-long fast, this year millions will be struggling to buy even the most basic foods for their families as the war in Ukraine has pushed food prices even higher than the troubling levels at the start of the year.
“We are extremely concerned about the millions of people in this region who are already struggling to access enough food because of a toxic combination of conflict, climate change and the economic aftermath of Covid-19,” said Corinne Fleischer, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “People’s resilience is at a breaking point. This crisis is creating shock waves in the food markets that touch every home in this region. No one is spared.”
The knock-on effect of the Ukraine crisis is adding further strain to the import-dependent region. The prices of wheat flour and vegetable oil – two key staples in the diet of most families – have consequently risen across the region. Cooking oil is up 36 percent in Yemen and 39 percent in Syria. Wheat flour is up 47 percent in Lebanon, 15 percent in Libya and 14 percent in Palestine.
Even prior to the conflict in Ukraine, inflation and increasing prices were putting basic food items beyond the reach of the most vulnerable. Food prices reached an all-time high in February 2022, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index.
The cost of a basic food basket – the minimum food needs per family per month – registered an annual increase of 351 percent in Lebanon, the highest in the region. It was followed by Syria, with a 97 percent rise, and Yemen with 81 percent hike. The three countries, all reliant on food imports, also reported sharp currency depreciation. Meanwhile, a drought in Syria has also impacted the country’s annual wheat production.
With global prices rising, WFP’s meagre resources for operations in the region, especially in Yemen and Syria, will be under even more pressure than before. In both countries, conflict and the related economic shrinkage have left more than 29 million people in need of food assistance. WFP is supporting nearly 19 million people in the two countries.
The global food price hikes and the Ukraine conflict have resulted in WFP facing an additional cost of US$71 million per month for global operations compared to 2019 – a 50% rise.
“The Ukraine crisis makes a bad funding situation worse. There are immediate humanitarian needs that demand attention. Donors have in recent years helped us provide food to millions in the region. Now the situation is critical and it’s time to be even more generous,” added Fleischer.
WFP currently has only 24 percent of the funding it needs in Syria and 31 percent of what it needs in Yemen. Due to funding constraints, WFP has already been forced to reduce food rations in both countries. Further reductions risk pushing people towards starvation.
* WFP Report: Food security implications of the Ukraine conflict (19pp):
30 Apr. 2022
UN humanitarians say $4.3 billion is needed to halt worsening Yemen crisis
The Humanitarian Country Team in Yemen today released the 2022 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), seeking nearly $4.3 billion to reverse a steady deterioration of the humanitarian situation. The 2022 HRP targets 17.3 million out of the 23.4 million people in need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection services.
“The worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen is a reality that we need to urgently address,” said Mr. David Gressly, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “The numbers this year are staggering. Over 23 million people – or almost three-quarters of Yemen’s population – now need assistance. That is an increase of almost three million people from 2021. Nearly 13 million people are already facing acute levels of need.”
Escalating conflict in 2021 resulted in untold suffering and further disruption of public services, pushing humanitarian needs higher. Yemen’s collapsing economy – itself a product of the conflict – exacerbated vulnerabilities among poor families. A record 19 million people are projected to require food assistance in the second half of the year, with the most extreme hunger looming for 161,000 of them. Children continue to suffer horribly, with 2.2 million acutely malnourished, including more than half a million at severe levels. Limited access to critical services continues to worsen the conditions of the most vulnerable groups, including women and children.
“This is also a moment of hope for Yemen. The UN-led truce is a vital opportunity for aid agencies to scale up life-saving assistance and to reach more people in acute need quickly, including in areas where access was limited due to armed conflict and insecurity,” said Mr. Gressly. “For aid agencies to immediately step up efforts, we count on sufficient donor funding. Otherwise, the aid operation will collapse despite the positive momentum we are seeing in Yemen today.”
At a high-level fund-raising event for Yemen held in March this year, donors pledged $1.3 billion – 30 per cent of the total requirement for the 2022 HRP. Another $300 million has been pledged since then. However, the response remains severely underfunded, leaving aid agencies with limited resources at a time when two-thirds of major UN programmes in Yemen were forced to scale back or close due to underfunding. “I urge all donors to fund the appeal fully and commit to disbursing funds quickly,” said Mr. Gressly.
24 Feb. 2022
Countdown to catastrophe begins in Yemen as funding for food assistance dwindles. (WFP)
Yemen is spiraling into a catastrophe as humanitarian funding dries up, forcing the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to scale back food assistance to millions of hungry families, WFP Executive Director David Beasley warned today, as he ended a two-day visit to the conflict-ravaged country.
“We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving and, unless we receive immediate funding, in a few weeks we risk not even being able to feed the starving. This will be hell on earth,” Beasley said.
The escalation of conflict in Ukraine is likely to further increase fuel and food prices and especially grains in the import-dependent country. Food prices have more than doubled across much of Yemen over the past year, leaving more than half of the country in need of food assistance. Higher food prices will push more people into the vicious circle of hunger and dependence on humanitarian assistance.
WFP provides food assistance to 13 million people every month in Yemen, but was forced to halve food rations for eight million people at the beginning of the year due to a shortage of funding. Five million people who are at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions have continued to receive a full food ration.
But without an immediate influx of cash, more severe reductions will be unavoidable and millions of hungry people may not receive food at all. For Yemenis, the timing could not be worse. As families try to put food on the table, they are being hampered by the knock-on effects of a serious escalation in fighting alongside the continuing deterioration of the economy.
Beasley met with government officials and spent time with families in hospitals and food distribution centers in Aden, Sana’a and Amran governorates. These governorates have alarming levels of food insecurity, with Amran even showing pockets of famine in the 2020 food security assessments.
The WFP chief heard first-hand about the impact of cuts in assistance on families’ lives. He spoke to a mother caring for her severely malnourished child in an Amran hospital. She said she was displaced from Hajjah on the frontlines and could have stayed in her home had she received food for her children. Instead, she sold her furniture and sheep and took her children in search of food and safety.
“It has been less than a year since I was in Yemen and it is worse than anyone can possibly imagine. Yemen has come full circle since 2018 when we had to fight our way back from the brink of famine but the risk today is more real than ever,” said Beasley.
“And just when you think it can’t get any worse, the world wakes up to a conflict in Ukraine that is likely to cause economic deterioration around the world especially for countries like Yemen, dependent on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. Prices will go up compounding an already terrible situation.”
WFP needs US$800 million in the next six months to provide full assistance to the 13 million people it has been assisting until now.
Last year, WFP has delivered more than one million tons of food and over US$330 million in cash and voucher assistance to families across Yemen.
* 1/4/2022: UN welcomes announcement of two-month truce in Yemen:

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Millions of people facing severe hunger as drought impacts Africa
by MSF, OCHA, CARE, Action Against Hunger, agencies
Apr. 2022
West Africa faces its worst food crisis in ten years, with over 27 million people already suffering from hunger, report 11 humanitarian agencies. (Reliefweb)
An additional 11 million people could be pushed to hunger just over the next three months
West Africa is hit by its worst food crisis in a decade, with 27 million people going hungry. This number could rise to 38 million this June - a new historic level and already an increase by more than a third over last year- unless urgent action is taken. This alert is issued by eleven international organizations in response to new analyses of the March 2022 Cadre Harmonisé (CH), ahead of the virtual conference on the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel and Lake Chad organized by the European Union and the Sahel and West Africa Club.
Over the past decade, far from abating, food crises have been increasing across the West African region, including in Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria. Between 2015 and 2022, the number of people in need of emergency food assistance nearly quadrupled, from 7 to 27 million.
“Cereal production in some parts of the Sahel has dropped by about a third compared to last year. Family food supplies are running out. Drought, floods, conflict, and the economic impacts of COVID-19 have forced millions of people off their land, pushing them to the brink" says Assalama Dawalack Sidi, Oxfam's regional director for West and Central Africa.
"The situation is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to move to different communities and to live with host families who are already living in difficult conditions themselves. There is not enough food, let alone food that is nutritious enough for children. We must help them urgently because their health, their future and even their lives are at risk," said Philippe Adapoe, Save the Children's director for West and Central Africa.
Malnutrition is steadily increasing in the Sahel. The United Nations estimated that 6.3 million children aged 6-59 months will be acutely malnourished this year - including more than 1.4 million children in the severe acute malnutrition phase - compared to 4.9 million acutely malnourished children in 2021.
"I had almost no milk left so I gave my baby other food. He often refused to take it and lost weight. In addition he had diarrhea, which worsened his condition," said Safiatou, a mother who had to flee her village because of the violence in Burkina Faso.
Dramatic impacts on the future of children
In addition to conflict and insecurity, pockets of drought and poor rainfall distribution have reduced communities' food sources, especially in the Central Sahel. To make up for the gap, many families are selling their assets, jeopardizing their productive capacity and the future of their children. Young girls may be forced into early marriage and other forms of gender-based violence may increase as food becomes scarcer.
"The rains were scarce. There is no more food. With the lack of grazing, the sheep are getting thinner and this forces us to sell them at a loss. I used to have twelve sheep, but now I only have one left”, explains Ramata Sanfo, a herder from Burkina Faso. "I would like to have my cattle back so that I have enough money and my children can go back to school."
The crisis in Europe worsens an already disastrous situation
Food prices have increased by 20-30 percent over the past five years in West Africa. While food reserves are dwindling in the Sahel, the crisis in Ukraine is making the situation dangerously worse. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food prices could rise by another 20 percent worldwide, an unbearable increase for already fragile populations. In addition, the crisis is likely to cause a significant decrease in wheat availability for six West African countries that import at least 30 percent, and in some cases more than 50 percent, of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
Another likely effect of the crisis in Europe is a sharp drop in international aid to Africa. Many donors have already indicated that they may make cuts in their funding to Africa. For example, Denmark has announced that it will postpone part of its bilateral development assistance to Burkina Faso (50 percent in 2022) and to Mali (40 percent in 2022) rather than fund the reception of people who have fled their homes in Ukraine with new money.
"The conference on the Sahel crisis scheduled for tomorrow is a unique opportunity to mobilize the necessary emergency food and nutrition assistance and to prove that the lives of people in Africa are not worth less than those in Europe," says Assalama Dawalack Sidi.
"There should be no competition between humanitarian crises," says Mamadou Diop, regional representative of Action Against Hunger. "The Sahel crisis is one of the worst humanitarian crises on a global scale and, at the same time, one of the least funded. We fear that by redirecting humanitarian budgets to the Ukrainian crisis, we risk dangerously aggravating one crisis to respond to another."
Humanitarian organizations are urging governments and donors not to repeat the failures of 2021, when only 48 percent of the humanitarian response plan in West Africa was funded. They must immediately close the $4 billion funding gap in the UN appeal for West Africa to save lives and ensure that these funds support age-, gender-, and disability-sensitive interventions. No one should be left behind.
* The eleven international organizations participating in this press release are Oxfam, Action Against Hunger, Save the Children, CARE International, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), Tearfund, World Vision (WV), Handicap International - Humanité & Inclusion and Mercy Corps.
According to the March 2022 analysis of the Cadre harmonisé (CH), 38.3 million people will be in food and nutrition crisis in June-August if nothing is done, compared to 27.3 million in the same period in 2021, an increase of 40.2% in one year. By country, the projections of people in phase 3 to 5 for June-August 2022 in the most affected countries are: Nigeria (19.5 million), Burkina Faso (3.5 million), Niger (4.4 million), Chad (2 million), Mali (1.8 million).
In 2020, Unicef estimated that 29 million children under the age of 5 (between 6 and 23 months) were stunted (+26%) in the region, up from 22 million in 2000. Other data on malnutrition are from the UNICEF/World Food Programme Hotspot 2022 analysis.
According to the Réseau de prévention des crises alimentaires (RPCA), cereal production in 2021 in the Sahel has declined by 12% and 7%, compared respectively to the 2020 season and the five-year average. The most pronounced declines compared to the 2020 season are observed in Niger (-36%), Mauritania (-18%), Burkina Faso (-10%), Gambia (-8%), and Chad (-6%).
According to the FAO, Burkina Faso and Togo import at least 30% of their wheat from Russia, while Senegal, Liberia, Benin and Mauritania import more than 50% of their wheat mainly from Russia, but also from Ukraine (for Senegal).
Several commodities have increased in price over the past five years in West Africa: Maize (+30%), Millet (+26%), Sorghum (+24%), Rice (+18%). Read also U.N. agency warns Ukraine war could trigger 20% food price rise.
According to UNHCR, more than 4.6 million people are currently displaced or refugees in the Central Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger), Chad, and Mauritania, 2 million more than in 2020.
Apr. 2022
15 million people facing severe hunger as drought grips the Horn of Africa. (WFP)
The Horn of Africa is experiencing the driest conditions recorded since 1981, with severe drought leaving an estimated 15 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia facing severe hunger in the first quarter of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated crops and caused abnormally high livestock deaths. Shortages of water and pasture are forcing families from their homes and leading to increased conflict between communities. Further forecasts of below-average rainfall are threatening to worsen and compound dire conditions in the coming months.
"Harvests are ruined, livestock are dying, and hunger is growing as recurrent droughts affect the Horn of Africa," said Michael Dunford, Regional Director in the WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa. "The situation requires immediate humanitarian action and consistent support to build the resilience of communities for the future."
The drought has impacted pastoral and farmer populations across southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, south-eastern and northern Kenya and south-central Somalia. The impacts are compounded by increases in staple food prices, inflation, and low demand for agricultural labour, further worsening families' ability to buy food. Malnutrition rates also remain high across the region and could worsen if no immediate action is taken.
Across the three drought-affected countries, WFP is providing life saving food and nutrition assistance to affected communities. As needs across the Horn of Africa grow, immediate assistance is critical to avoid a major humanitarian crisis, like the one the world witnessed in 2011 when 250,000 people died of hunger in Somalia. This week WFP launches its Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa, calling for US$ 327 million to respond to immediate needs of 4.5 million people over the next six months and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks.
Mar. 2022
Families pushed to the limit as South Sudan braces for its worst hunger crisis ever. (WFP)
More than seventy percent of the South Sudanese population will struggle to survive the peak of the lean season this year as the country grapples with unprecedented levels of food insecurity caused by conflict, climate shocks, covid, and rising costs, warns the United Nations World Food Programme.
While global attention remains fixated on Ukraine, a hidden hunger emergency is engulfing South Sudan with about 8.3 million people in South Sudan – including refugees – set to face extreme hunger in the coming months as the 2022 lean season peaks, food becomes scarce and provisions are depleted, according to the latest findings published in the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Particularly at risk are tens of thousands of South Sudanese who are already severely hungry following successive and continuous shocks and could starve without food assistance.
South Sudan forms part of a ‘ring of fire’ encircling the globe where climate shocks, conflict, covid-19, and rising costs are driving millions closer to starvation. The impact of the climate crisis and ongoing conflict have led to large scale displacement, livelihoods losses, the destruction of arable land and crops as well as rising food prices — threatening the survival of communities living in some of the most isolated areas in the States of Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Warrap.
“The extent and depth of this crisis is unsettling. We’re seeing people across the country have exhausted all their available options to make ends meet and now they are left with nothing,” said Adeyinka Badejo, Deputy Country Director of the World Food Programme in South Sudan.
Feb. 2022
36 million people in ten countries highly food insecure due to conflict, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic. (IPC)
Millions of people continue to experience high levels of acute food insecurity in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, exacerbated by conflict, drought, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic decline. Around 36 million people in ten countries are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above), including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia.
As of February 22, 2022, Integrated Food Insecurity Phase Classification (IPC) analyses (conducted between June and November 2021) showed that, out of 167 million people analysed, 36 million people were classified in IPC Phase 3 or above. This means people can meet minimum food needs but only by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis or emergency coping strategies. The countries hosting the worst-affected populations, classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), include Angola, DRC and Madagascar.
The IPC Acute Food Insecurity analyses, conducted by National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVAC) comprised of government, humanitarian and development partners, recommend the provision of immediate humanitarian assistance in areas where people are in Crisis or Emergency (IPC Phase 3 or 4) to reduce food deficits. They also recommend improving water and sanitation conditions, housing and COVID-19 mitigation measures, and strengthening household livelihoods.
Jan. 2022
Chad: “If the rain abandons us again, we don’t know what we will do”. (MSF)
Khadidja Iba sits on a colourful mat in the waiting area of a therapeutic feeding centre that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up at a health centre in Massakory, a small town in Chad’s Sahel belt. The mother of six has walked for two hours to bring her youngest child, nine-month-old Sara, for a follow-up visit. The child has been enrolled in MSF’s nutrition programme for a month.
After an assessment with MSF’s health staff, Khadidja receives a week’s worth of bright red packages of Plumpy’Nut, a high-energy peanut paste used to treat malnutrition, that she will feed the baby with until her next assessment the following week.
MSF teams launched a nutrition response in Chad’s Hadjer Lamis province in September 2021, after receiving an alert about a significant number of severe acute malnutrition cases in the area – more than 28,000 predicted for 2021 – and learning that only one of the province’s five health districts was receiving support.
Malnutrition is a recurrent, chronic crisis in Chad, and especially affects children under five and pregnant and lactating women. The causes of malnutrition are complex, and include poor harvests, inadequate dietary choices as well as socio-cultural factors. In 2021, the situation was exacerbated by an unusually short rainy season.
“There was very little rain last year. It was worse than any year I remember,” says Khadija. “We harvested hardly anything. We need to buy vegetables at the market, but everything costs almost double now. We don’t have enough to eat.”
"We are afraid of the future. All we can do is wait for the next rains. If the rain abandons us another time, we don’t know what to do", says Osman Abakar, a village resident near Massakory.
Lack of water adds to crisis
Food insecurity is not the only worry of people living in this arid, inhospitable region. An even bigger concern for many is a lack of water.
“We have two wells in my village, but it’s not enough for all the people and animals. I have to pump for five to six minutes to get water,” says Khadidja Mahamat. “The water tastes bad; we mostly give it to the animals. To get drinking water, I go by donkey to another village. It takes me one-and-a half hours each way.”
The bad quality of the water causes diarrhoea and other health issues, increasing the risk for children of being malnourished.
MSF teams treat children in therapeutic feeding centres in seven health districts of the province and support the treatment of severely malnourished children in Massakory hospital. Teams also visit remote villages in the area to teach mothers how to prevent and detect malnutrition in children. Health promoters show mothers how to use MUAC bands, a colour-coded paper band that is wrapped around a child’s arm and indicates if a child is healthy, slightly or severely malnourished.
“There is some fear that the worst is yet to come, that the hunger gap will start earlier than usual and that it could be longer and more severe,” says Ibrahim Barrie, MSF medical team leader. “It’s a continuous crisis, no longer just a hunger gap.”
“At the same time, funding for nutrition and food security in Chad has gone down,” continues Barrie. “We need a better aid response to prevent children from dying from malnutrition.”
The Sahel region is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, with rising temperatures, erratic rainfalls and increasing desertification. Over the last 10 years, Chad’s Saharan and Sahelian zones have spread 150 kilometres south, resulting in reduced farming and pasture areas.


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