People facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood saving assistance has hit a high in 2020 in countries beset by food crises, said an annual report by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC).
The annual report pointed out conflict, economic crisis often related to Covid 19 pandemic along with extreme weather continue to push millions of people into acute food insecurity. The Global network Against Food Crises is an international alliance of the UN, the EU, governmental and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises together.
The annual report said that at least 155 million people in 55 countries were in the worst situation (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in 2020. The numbers shows an increase of around 20 million people from 2019. The report points out that around 1,33 000 people were classified in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity in 2020 Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5).
Phase 3 relates to households that have food consumption gaps with high or above usual acute malnutrition or accelerated depletion of livelihoods assets or resort to crisis coping strategies. Phase 5 relates to households having extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs. Starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident.
CONFLICT AND HUNGER
In the forward to the report, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said that addressing hunger is a foundation for stability and peace. “Conflict and hunger are mutually reinforcing. We need to tackle hunger and conflict together to solve either. We must do everything we can to end this vicious cycle,” he said.
Around 28 million across 38 countries were in Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) or worse situation. This meant that they were one step away from starvation. Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen came under this category. Phase 4 relates to households having large food consumption gaps resulting in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality. They also face extreme loss of livelihood assets.
Of the 55 food crises identified in 2020, the report said that ten stood out in terms of the number of people in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) or equivalent. Six of these were in Africa (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan, northern Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe). Two were in the Middle East (the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen), one in the Americas (Haiti) and one in South Asia (Afghanistan).
Five countries – Afghanistan, Haiti, Lesotho, Yemen and Zimbabwe – had between 40 and 45 percent of their analysed populations in Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above).
In the 55 food crisis countries, the report said that over 75 million children under five were stunted (too short) and over 15 million wasted (too thin) in 2020. Countries in Africa remained disproportionally affected by acute food insecurity. Close to 98 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 – or two out of three – were on the African continent. But other parts of the world have also not been spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the ten worst food crises last year.
KEY DRIVERS TO FOOD INSECURITY
- Conflict; (main driver pushing almost 100 million people into acute food insecurity, up from 77 million in 2019);
- Economic shocks; mostly due to COVID-19. This replaced weather events as the second driver of acute food insecurity both in terms of numbers of people and countries affected (over 40 million people in 17 countries/territories, up from 24 million and 8countries in 2019)
- Weather extremes (over 15 million people, down from 34 million).
The the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) in a statement said that one year after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for 2021 and beyond is grim. It said that pandemic related restrictions leading to economic hardship, conflict and persistent threat of adverse weather conditions would drive food crises.
It said that the pandemic revealed the fragility of global food system. It also showed the need for more equitable, sustainable and resilient systems to feed 8.5 billion people by 2030. The GNAFC also emphasised the need for a radical transformation of agri-food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
They also opined that the crises would increase in frequency and severity if current trends were not reversed. The Global Network said that they would step up efforts to promote resilient agri-food systems that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.
In March 2021, Guterres established a High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine, led by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, along with FAO and WFP and with the support of OCHA and other UN agencies as well as NGO partners. The Task Force aims to bring coordinated, high-level attention to famine prevention and mobilise support to the most affected countries.