113 million people in 52 countries experienced extreme hunger in 2018: UN, EU
The worst food crises in 2018 were, in order of severity, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan and northern Nigeria. These eight countries accounted for two thirds of the total number of people facing acute food insecurity – amounting to nearly 72 million people.
Approximately 113 million people in 53 countries experienced acute level of hunger in 2018, according to a new joint report prepared by the United Nation and the European Union (EU).
The report, released on April 1, states that conflict and insecurity, climate shocks and economic turbulence are the primary drivers of food insecurities and — continued to erode livelihoods and destroy lives.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP) and EU “Global Report on Food Crises 2019” report shows that the number going chronically-hungry has remained well over 100 million over the past three years, with the number of countries affected, rising.
The worst food crises in 2018 were, in order of severity, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Sudan, South Sudan and northern Nigeria. These eight countries accounted for two-thirds of the total number of people facing acute food insecurity – amounting to nearly 72 million people.
The figure of 113 million people represents a slight improvement over the number for 2017 presented in last year’s report, in which an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries faced acute hunger.
Although there were 11 million fewer people believed to be in food crisis in 2018 compared with 2017, in 17 countries, acute hunger either remained the same or increased, the report indicates.
Despite the slight decrease, over the past three years, the report has consistently shown that year on year, more than 100 million people (2016, 2017 and 2018) have faced periods of acute hunger, the report stated.
The modest decrease between 2017 and 2018 is largely attributed to changes in climate shocks. A number highly exposed countries did not experience the intensity of climate-related shocks and stressors that they had experienced in 2017 when they variously faced severe drought, flooding, rains, and temperature rises brought on by the El Niño of 2015-16. This includes countries in southern and eastern Africa, the Horn of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region, according to the report.
Moreover, an additional 143 million people in another 42 countries are just one step away from acute hunger since they are living in stressed conditions and risked slipping into crisis of worse if face with a shock or stressor.
According to the report, high levels of acute and chronic malnutrition in children living in emergency conditions remained of grave concern. The immediate drivers of undernutrition include poor dietary intake and disease. Mothers and caregivers often face challenges in providing children with the key micronutrients they need at critical growth periods in food crises. This is reflected in the dismally low number of children consuming a minimum acceptable diet in most of the countries profiled in this report.
Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into acute food insecurity in 2018, says the report, and that number excludes 13 countries – including North Korea and Venezuela – because of data gaps.
The report claims conflict and insecurity as the key driver in 2018.
Some 74 million people – two-thirds – of those facing acute hunger were located in 21 countries and territories affected by conflict or insecurity. Around 33 million of these people were in 10 countries in Africa; over 27 million in seven countries in Western Asia/Middle East; 13 million in three countries in South/South-east Asia and 1.1 million in Eastern Europe, the report states.
Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into situations of acute food insecurity in 2018. As in previous years, most of these individuals were in Africa, where nearly 23 million people in 20 countries were acutely food insecure due to climate shocks. Economic shocks were the primary driver of acute food insecurity for 10.2 million people, mainly in Burundi, the Sudan and Zimbabwe.
OUTLOOK FOR 2019
The report says that Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Sudan, South Sudan and northern Nigeria are expected to remain among the world’s most severe food crises in 2019.
Large segments of populations in most of these countries risk falling into ‘emergency’ levels of acute food insecurity. Climate shocks and conflict will continue driving food insecurity and are expected once again to severely affect several regions. Dry weather in parts of Southern Africa and drought in Central America’s Dry Corridor has dampened prospects for agricultural output. El Niño conditions are likely to have an impact on agricultural production and food prices in Latin America and the Caribbean, it further states.
The needs of refugees and migrants in host countries are expected to remain significant in Bangladesh and the Syria regional crisis. The number of people who are displaced, refugees and migrants are expected to increase if the political and economic crisis persists in Venezuela, it stated.
The report has suggested ending conflicts, empowering women, nourishing and educating children, improving rural infrastructure and reinforcing social safety-nets for a resilient, stable and hunger-free world.
According to the report, the findings clearly demonstrate the need for simultaneous action across the humanitarian– development nexus to deliver a hunger-free world in the 21st century.
In the last 10 years, humanitarian assistance and spending needs have grown by around 127 percent –approximately 40 percent of that went to cover needs in the food and agriculture subsectors.
“The surge in humanitarian needs – as well as the potential for agricultural development and rural resilience-building to provide a buffer against crises – highlights the need for a new way of responding to the food security challenges of this new era,” it stated.
According to FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, despite a slight drop in the number of people experience acute hunger in 2018, the figure is still too high.
“We must act at scale across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus to build the resilience of affected and vulnerable populations. To save lives, we also have to save livelihoods”, he added.
WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, said that only humanitarian assistance does not address the root causes of food crisis. According to him, it is important to attack the root causes of hunger viz conflict, instability and the impact of climate shocks.
“Boys and girls need to be well-nourished and educated, women need to be truly empowered, rural infrastructure must be strengthened in order to meet that Zero Hunger goal,” he added.
Beasley was of the view that the programs that make a community resilient and more stable will help reduce the number of hungry people.
“The world leaders have to step up and help solve the conflicts right now,” he added.
From 2014 to 2020, the EU will have provided nearly €9 billion for initiatives on food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture in over 60 countries.
EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, said that joint efforts is required to cope with the food crises which continue to be a global challenge.
“The EU continues to step up its humanitarian efforts. Over the last three years, the EU allocated the biggest humanitarian food and nutrition assistance budget ever, with nearly €2 billion overall. Food crises are becoming more acute and complex and we need innovative ways to tackle and prevent them from happening”, he added.