Conflict, weather extremes, economic shocks, the lingering impacts of Covid-19, and the ripple effects from the war in Ukraine will push millions of people across the world into poverty and hunger, says a new report by two UN organisations.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warn these extra pressures come at a time when rising food and fuel prices are already driving nations closer to instability in the report Hunger Hotspots FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity.
The report is calling for urgent humanitarian action in 20 ‘hunger hotspots’, where acute hunger is expected to worsen from between now and September 2022 — to save lives and livelihoods, and prevent famine.
Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen remain at ‘highest alert’ as hotspots with catastrophic conditions, while Afghanistan and Somalia are new entries to this latest report.
Research shows these countries all have segments at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions, with a total of 750,000 people already facing starvation and death in Ethiopia, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan.
The conflict in Ukraine is compounding what is already a year of catastrophic hunger, unleashing a wave of collateral hunger that is spreading across the globe, transforming a series of terrible hunger crises into a global food crisis the world cannot afford.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, the Sahel region, Sudan, and Syria remain ‘countries of very high concern’ with deteriorating critical conditions, as in the previous edition of this report — with Kenya a new entry to the list.
The report finds that — alongside conflict — climate shocks will continue to drive acute hunger in the outlook period from June to September 2022. It also said that we have entered a ‘new normal’, where frequent and recurring droughts, flooding, hurricanes and cyclones destroy farming, drive displacement and push millions to the brink in countries around the world.
Sri Lanka, West African coastal countries (Benin, Cabo Verde, and Guinea), Ukraine and Zimbabwe have been added to the list of hotspots countries, joining Angola, Lebanon, Madagascar, and Mozambique, which continue to be hunger hotspots.
“We are deeply concerned about the combined impacts of overlapping crises jeopardising people’s ability to produce and access foods, pushing millions more into extreme levels of acute food insecurity,” said FAO Director General QU Dongyu.
“We are in a race against time to help farmers in the most affected countries, in terms of rapidly increasing potential food production and boosting their resilience in the face of challenges”.
The report has made recommendations to immediately improve each country’s humanitarian response to save lives, prevent famine and protect livelihoods.
In line with recent G7 commitments, the report also highlights the importance of strengthening anticipatory action to ensure predictable hazards do not become full-blown humanitarian disasters.
FAO and WFP have teamed up to ramp up the scale and reach of anticipatory action, to protect communities’ lives, food security and livelihoods before they need life-saving assistance in the critical window between an early warning and a shock.
Flexible humanitarian funding enables FAO and WFP to anticipate humanitarian needs and save lives.
Evidence shows that for every $1 invested in anticipatory action to safeguard lives and livelihoods, up to $7 can be saved by avoiding losses for disaster-affected communities.
“We’re facing a perfect storm that is not just going to hurt the poorest of the poor — it’s also going to overwhelm millions of families who until now have just about kept their heads above water,” warned WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
“Conditions now are much worse than during the Arab uprisings in 2011 and 2007-2008 food price crisis, when 48 countries were rocked by political unrest, riots and protests. We’ve already seen what’s happening in Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru, and Sri Lanka — that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have solutions. But we need to act, and act fast."