COVID-19, conflict and the climate crises are expected to drive higher levels of acute food insecurity in 23 hunger hotspots over the next four months, a report has said.
This is contained in a joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) “Hunger hotspots FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity August to November 2021 outlook” published on Friday.
The organisations said “acute food insecurity continues to increase in scale and severity.”
The 23 hotspots prone to acute food insecurity are Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Chad.
Others are Lebanon, Colombia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Madagascar, Myanmar, Liberia, Syria, Yemen, Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua) and Central Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger).
Conflict, climate concerns and economic shocks often related to the economic fallout of COVID-19 will likely remain primary drivers of acute food insecurity for the August-November 2021 period.
The report emphasised the alarming rate at which acute food security is rising globally, adding that over 4.1 million people worldwide are now at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions unless they receive immediate life-saving assistance.
“Situation of acute food insecurity continues to escalate. In 2020, 155 million people were estimated to be in acute high food insecurity across 55 countries, up by 20 million from 2019. This negative trend is continuing well into 2021,” the report said.
“These deteriorating trends are mostly driven by conflict dynamics, as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These include food prices spikes, movement restrictions that limit market and pastoralists activities alike, rising inflation, decreased purchasing power and an early and prolonged lean season.
“In particular, desert locust infestations in the Horn of Africa and African migratory locust in Southern Africa require continued monitoring and vigilance, it said.
The report said, amongst the hunger hotspots, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen are classified as having extreme access constraints.
Countries classified as having very high constraints include the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan.
According to the report, rising violence across northern Nigeria and persisting nationwide inflation are likely to drive up acute food insecurity.
“This will increase the risk of some areas in the northeast falling into catastrophic levels of food insecurity should the situation continue to deteriorate,” it said.
It added that the countries with the highest number of people in urgent need of food assistance in the world are Haiti, Honduras, Sudan, and Syria.
The report provided country-specific recommendations on priorities for anticipatory action, short-term protective interventions to be implemented before new humanitarian needs materialise and emergency response action to address existing humanitarian needs.
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“Targeted humanitarian action is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods in 23 hotspots.Moreover, in 5 of these hotspots, humanitarian actions are critical to preventing famine and death,” the report said.
QU Dongyu, FAO director-general, noted that the vast majority of those on the verge are farmers.
“Alongside food assistance, we must do all we can to help them resume food production themselves so that families and communities can move back towards self-sufficiency and not just depend on aid to survive,” the FAO DG said.
“That’s difficult without access, and without adequate funding and so far, support to agriculture as key means of preventing widespread famine remains largely overlooked by donors, unfortunately.
“Without such support to agriculture, humanitarian needs will keep skyrocketing, that’s inevitable,” he added.