People's Stories Poverty

View previous stories

UN Food Agencies warn of rising levels of acute hunger with potential risk of famine
by Fews Net, Reliefweb, WFP, IPC, agencies
June 2021
WFP Global Operational Response Plan: June 2021
The driving focus of the WFP’s Global Operational Response Plan is to provide government partners, policymakers, humanitarian counterparts, and concerned citizens with an update on evolving needs and WFP’s response priorities.
The world is no longer moving towards Zero Hunger. Progress has stalled, reversed, and today, up to 270.5 million people are estimated to be acutely food insecure or at high risk in 2021, driven by conflict, economic shocks, natural disasters, and the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19.
Urgent action and immediate support are needed to address and prevent famine for millions of people and avert catastrophic outcomes, including wide-scale food assistance cuts for refugees and other vulnerable people.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is taking a leadership role, working with partners globally and nationally to meet people’s emergency food and nutrition needs and reduce the structural vulnerabilities that underpin them – by strengthening the capacity of individuals, communities, and governments, improving livelihoods, building resilience and reinforcing national social protection systems.
The June update provides the latest information, figures, and a snapshot of how WFP is implementing the Global Operational Response Plan, by:
Warning of the drivers and multiplying risks that have resulted in surging food insecurity and deepening hunger, with 41 million people at risk of falling into famine in 43 countries, and 584,000 people likely to face famine-like conditions in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen in 2021.
Setting out how WFP is responding through humanitarian action, development assistance and technical support to national governments – working to scale up lifesaving food and nutrition assistance, enhance prevention, and strengthen global and national partnerships.
Identifying WFP’s Operations of Highest Concern, where the scale and severity of food and nutrition insecurity, the scale of WFP’s operational requirements, and the urgency of funding gaps intersect, along with providing a detailed country-by-country overview across WFP’s operations.
Despite mounting operational requirements, the 2021 global contribution forecast covers just 55 percent of WFP’s current operational requirements of US$ 15.3 billion. For the next six months alone, WFP still requires US$ 4.5 billion to cover needs from June to November 2021.
Jan. 2021
Impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition. (Committee on World Food Security - High Level Panel of Experts)
The COVID-19 pandemic that has spread rapidly and extensively around the world since late 2019 has had profound implications for food security and nutrition. The unfolding crisis has affected food systems and threatened people’s access to food via multiple dynamics.
We have witnessed not only a major disruption to food supply chains in the wake of lockdowns triggered by the global health crisis, but also a major global economic slowdown.
These crises have resulted in lower incomes and higher prices of some foods, putting food out of reach for many, and undermining the right to food and stalling efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: “Zero hunger.” The situation is fluid and dynamic, characterized by a high degree of uncertainty.
According to the World Health Organization, the worst effects are yet to come. Most health analysts predict that this virus will continue to circulate for a least one or two more years.
The food security and nutrition risks of these dynamics are serious. Already, before the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition report, some two billion people faced food insecurity at the moderate or severe level. Since 2014, these numbers have been climbing. The COVID-19 pandemic is undermining efforts to achieve SDG2.
The complex dynamics triggered by the lockdowns intended to contain the disease are creating conditions for a major disruption to food systems, giving rise to a dramaticincrease in hunger. The most recent estimates indicate that between 132 million additional people—including 80 million people in low-income countries that rely on food imports will experience food insecurity as a direct result of the pandemic.
At least 25 countries, including Lebanon, Yemen and South Sudan, are at risk of significant food security deterioration because of the secondary socio-economic impacts of the pandemic (FAO and WFP, 2020). In Latin America, the number of people requiring food assistance has almost tripledin 2020.
Food productivity could also be affected in the future, especially if the virus is not contained and the lockdown measures continue.
The purpose of this issues paper, requested by the Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), is to provide insights in addressing the food and nutrition security implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
* Access the report (25pp):
* Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity (March-July 2021):
* Inter Agency Standing Committee (Food Security 20-21)):
* Right to Food: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri:
Nov. 2020
WFP Global Update on COVID-19: Growing Needs, Response to Date and What’s to Come in 2021
WFP estimates that 271.8 million people in countries where it operates are acutely food insecure - or directly at-risk of becoming so - due to the aggravating effect the protracted COVID-19 crisis is having in areas affected by conflict, socio-economic downturn, natural hazards, climate change and pests. The latest estimate marks an increase in acute food insecurity from the earlier June projection. This November update of WFP's Global Response Plan to COVID-19 takes stock of efforts by regional bureaux and country offices to continue to sustain and scale-up operations to assist vulnerable communities and to support governments in their health and hunger response.
Food security partners still do not have the funding required to implement operations at the level required to prevent catastrophe. Needs-based plans developed by WFP country offices for the next six months stand at USS 7.7 billion through April 2021, half of which is still to be resourced: (88p)
Nov. 2020
UN Food Agencies warn of rising levels of acute hunger with potential risk of famine in four hotspots
The world has been put on a heightened famine alert with a new report by two United Nations agencies that contains a stark warning; four countries contain areas that could soon slip into famine if conditions there undergo “any further deterioration over the coming months”. These are Burkina Faso in West Africa’s Sahel region, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.
The Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots – issued today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) – describes a toxic combination of conflict, economic decline, climate extremes and the COVID-19 pandemic that is driving people further into the emergency phase of food insecurity.
Parts of the population in the four hotspots of highest concern are already experiencing a critical hunger situation, with the report warning that escalations in conflict as well as a further reduction in humanitarian access could lead to a risk of famine.
But these four countries are far from being the only red flag on a world map that shows that acute food insecurity levels are reaching new highs globally, driven by a combination of factors, the report notes. Another 16 countries are at high risk of rising levels of acute hunger.
The aim of the Hotspots report is to inform urgent action that can be taken now to avoid a major emergency – or series of emergencies – in three to six months from today. How the situation evolves in the highest risk countries will depend on conflict dynamics, food prices, and the myriad impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their food systems, rainfall and harvest outcomes, humanitarian access, and the readiness of donors to continue funding humanitarian operations.
“This report is a clear call to urgent action,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience. “We are deeply concerned about the combined impact of several crises which are eroding people’s ability to produce and access food, leaving them more and more at risk of the most extreme hunger. We need access to these populations to ensure they have food and the means to produce food and improve their livelihoods to prevent a worst-case scenario.”
“We are at a catastrophic turning point. Once again, we face the risk of famine in four different parts of the world at the same time. When we declare a famine it means many lives have already been lost. If we wait to find that out for sure, people are already dead,” said Margot van der Velden, WFP Director of Emergencies.
“In 2011, Somalia suffered a famine that killed 260,000 people. The famine was declared in July, but most people had already died by May. We cannot let this happen again. We have a stark choice; urgent action today, or unconscionable loss of life tomorrow,” she warned.
All told, the joint report points to a total of 20 countries and contexts that are at “further risk of deterioration of acute food insecurity”, with key drivers of hunger including expansion and intensification of violence, economic crises exacerbated by COVID-19 socioeconomic impact, weather extremes, transboundary threats like the Desert Locust and a lack of humanitarian access.
It notes that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo there are 22 million people now estimated to be acutely food insecure - the highest number ever registered for a single country. Burkina Faso has registered the biggest increase with the numbers of desperately hungry people almost tripling compared to 2019, driven by increasing conflict, displacement and COVID-related impacts on employment and food access.
The situation is also dire in Yemen, where the existing food insecurity combined with conflict and a deepening economic crisis could lead to a further deterioration of an already critical food security situation.
Catastrophe/famine is the most severe of five phases used by the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system to chart escalating degrees of food insecurity. When this extreme phase is declared, it means that people have already started dying from starvation. The Hotspots report is saying that, unless urgent action is now taken, the world could experience its first outbreak of famine since it was last declared in 2017 in parts of South Sudan.
This new report was developed under the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) – an alliance of humanitarian and development actors launched in 2016 by the European Union, FAO and WFP to tackle the root causes of food crises through shared analysis and knowledge, strengthened coordination in evidence-based responses, and collective efforts across the humanitarian, development and peace nexus.

Visit the related web page

Over 150 million more children to live in poor households by the end of the year
by Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, agencies
150 million additional children plunged into poverty due to COVID-19, reports UNICEF, Save the Children
New analysis reveals the number of children living in multidimensional poverty – without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water – has increased by 15 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
The number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new UNICEF and Save the Children analysis. This is a 15 per cent increase in the number of children living in deprivation in low- and middle-income countries, or an additional 150 million children since the pandemic hit earlier this year.
The multidimensional poverty analysis uses data on access to education, healthcare, housing, nutrition, sanitation and water from more than 70 countries. It highlights that around 45 per cent of children were severely deprived of at least one of these critical needs in the countries analyzed before the pandemic.
Although the analysis paints a dire picture already, UNICEF warns the situation will likely worsen in the months to come.
“COVID-19 and the lockdown measures imposed to prevent its spread have pushed millions of children deeper into poverty,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end.”
The report notes that child poverty is much more than a monetary value. Although measures of monetary poverty such as household income are important, they provide only a partial view of the plight of children living in poverty. To understand the full extent of child poverty, all potential deprivations must be analysed directly. This also points to the need to implement multi-sectoral policies addressing health, education, nutrition, water and sanitation and housing deprivations to end multidimensional poverty.
Social protection, inclusive fiscal policies, investments in social services, and employment and labor market interventions to support families are critical to lifting children out of poverty and preventing further devastation.
This includes expanding access to quality health care and providing the tools and technology needed for children to continue their education remotely; and investing in family-friendly policies such as paid leave and child care.
“This pandemic has already caused the biggest global education emergency in history, and the increase in poverty will make it very hard for the most vulnerable children and their families to make up for the loss”, said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children. “Children who lose out on education are more likely to be forced into child labour or early marriage and be trapped in a cycle of poverty for years to come. We cannot afford to let a whole generation of children become victims of this pandemic. National governments and the international community must step up to soften the blow.”
There are not only more children experiencing poverty than before, the poorest children are getting poorer as well, the report notes.
“We must act now to prevent additional children from being deprived in basic life needs like school, medicine, food, water and shelter,” said Fore. “Governments must prioritize the most marginalized children and their families through rapid expansion of social protection systems including cash transfers and child benefits, remote learning opportunities, healthcare services and school feeding. Making these critical investments now can help countries to prepare for future shocks.”
July 2020
Economic fallout from COVID-19 tightens its grip on children, by David Stewart, Sola Engilbertsdottir.
“Poverty is when you don’t have any money. Because of a lack of money, children don’t have a chance to develop. They may not have a good profession or a good foundation for life.” This is how Marieta and Gor from Armenia recently described the impact of poverty.
Whether it’s the instant loss of income that so many parents face as a result of COVID-19 or the austerity measures that may follow plummeting GDP, children will bear the brunt of this pandemic long after the virus itself has been eradicated.
Projections change daily, with some predictions that the recession that follows COVID-19 will be the worst global crisis since World War II. As a result, up to 106 million more children could live in poor households by the end of the year, according to new projections from UNICEF and Save the Children.
This is on top of the 385 million children living in extreme poverty before COVID-19 hit, and the 663 million children living in multidimensional poverty, meaning monetary poverty combined with poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, or exposure to environmental hazards, disempowerment or the threat of violence.
As these stark economic predictions manifest, we will witness global poverty increasing. What deepens the tragedy is that children are disproportionately affected by poverty. Not only are they twice as likely to live in poverty than adults, they are also more forcefully affected by its consequences.
Children living in poverty are less likely to go to school, more likely to be forced into child labor, more likely to be married as children, and less likely to access nutritious food and quality healthcare.
“We are worried that our children won’t have enough to eat,” said Siriphon Yampikul, of Thailand. “We parents can go without food, that is OK. But our children cannot go without.”
The threat to children is not limited to the near term. The recovery phase will take years, especially in low- and middle-income countries where there is limited capacity to mitigate the impact of the economic slowdown. 
In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, temporary measures were introduced and existing programmes were scaled up following the 2008 crisis – but were constrained by weak social protection systems, low pre-existing coverage, and decreased revenues.
And you don’t need to look too far back in history to know that when a crisis hits, budget cuts often follow an initial spike in government spending on the response. These austerity measures produce devastating results for children. If the response to COVID-19 follows the same pattern, we will see how unequally and cruelly economic destruction is distributed.
Families on the cusp of escaping intergenerational cycles of poverty will be flung back in. In East Asia and the Pacific, for example, the virus is expected to keep almost 24 million people in poverty who would otherwise have escaped.
And for children living in countries already affected by conflict, fragility, and violence, the impact of this crisis will add to an already precarious situation, increasing further risks of instability.
Although past crises offer a grim picture of what’s to come, they also provide valuable insight into how we might mitigate the impact. UNICEF works to support governments and partners in more than 100 countries to design and implement social protection systems and measures such as cash transfers, which can play a major role in cushioning the impact of financial crises on households with children.
Currently, 2 out of 3 children have no access to any child or family benefits. Rapidly expanding these programmes to reach every child is a critical investment not just in children and families, but also in a world better prepared for future shocks.
As one child in Trinidad said: “Poverty upsets my community. It affects you and me.”
In addition to expansion of coverage, social protection responses must consider children’s specific needs and vulnerabilities, including those related to gender and disability.
There are mounting calls for debt relief to support low and middle-income countries. In countries everywhere, however, the scale of the solution has to match the scale of the problem.
Governments must take decisive action to prevent child poverty from deepening and inequality from worsening within and across countries. They must rapidly extend cash transfer programmes to reach every child, invest in family-friendly policies, such as paid leave and accessible, affordable childcare, and expand access to healthcare and other public services.
In the medium and longer term, they will need to strengthen and expand shock responsive social protection systems to make children, communities and economies more resilient.
The economic impacts of COVID-19 are without precedent in modern history. Unprecedented action to protect children and their families from the worst effects should be a fundamental yardstick for success.
* David Stewart is Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection at UNICEF, and Sola Engilbertsdottir is a Policy Specialist at UNICEF.
Aug. 2020
Global Coalition to End Child Poverty: A Call to Action for governments to expand children’s access to Child-Sensitive Social Protection in the wake of COVID-19
COVID-19 threatens to push millions more children into poverty and deprivation across the world, risking lasting negative impacts on them and wider society. While governments have been putting in place short-term social protection measures to protect their citizens from the immediate economic impacts of the pandemic, this Call to Action explains why governments must maintain and scale up their investments in child-focused and child-sensitive social protection to avoid failing an entire future generation.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook