These countries need urgent action to beat famine, deaths in the next 4 months: FAO

Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan, northern Nigeria and Yemen are in need of urgent targeted humanitarian action 

By Susan Chacko
Published: Monday 02 August 2021
Acute food insecurity to worsen in 23 countries in coming months: FAO

Urgent targeted humanitarian action is critical to prevent famine and deaths in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan, northern Nigeria and Yemen, warned a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The five countries are among 23 where acute food insecurity will worsen from August through November, 2021, the report added. 

Sharp increase in acute food insecurity, driven primarily by conflict, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and natural hazards, will put the lives and livelihoods of the residents at risk.

Higher international food prices may transmit onto domestic rates and will further restrict the access to food for vulnerable households.

The ongoing increase of the frequency and severity of climate hazards and weather extremes is likely to continue during the period, the report added.  

The 2021 Global Food Crises Report released in May 2021 had already warned of acute food insecurity, soaring to a five-year high which was contributed by conflict, economic shocks (including due to COVID-19) and extreme weather, pushing at least 155 million people into acute food insecurity in 2020.

Conflict to drive food insecurity

Violence is predicted to intensify in Afghanistan, Central Sahel, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, northern Nigeria, northern Mozambique, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen, according to the report.

Violent conflicts have picked up between the Talibans and Afghan security forces in several parts of Afghanistan since the departure of the American troops. 

Population displacement, abandonment of agricultural land, loss of life and assets, disruption of trade and cropping and loss of access to markets caused by conflicts can worsen food insecurity, the authors wrote in the report.

Violence is also likely to disrupt access to humanitarian assistance, the report mentioned.

Pandemic shocks, natural hazards

In 2020, almost all low- and middle-income countries were affected by the pandemic-induced economic downturns. Hunger shot up in 2020, outpacing population growth: Almost 10 per cent of the world’s population was estimated to be undernourished last year, up from 8.4 per cent in 2019.

Extreme weather conditions and climate variability are likely to affect several parts of the world during the outlook period.

In Haiti, for instance, reduced precipitation during the main growing season ended May is likely to have impacted yield. Continued below-average rainfall, on the hand, is likely to reduce yield during the main rice-growing season.

Desert locust infestation was a major worry in the Horn of Africa at of the beginning of July, while other regions were unaffected.

Poor humanitarian access

Humanitarian access is limited in various ways, including administrative / bureaucratic impediments, movement restrictions, security constraints and physical constraints related to the environment.

Countries currently facing the most significant obstacles, preventing aid from reaching those who need it most are Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, the Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, the Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

David Beasley, WFP executive director, said: 

The road to zero hunger isn't paved with conflict, checkpoints and red tape. Humanitarian access isn't some abstract concept — it means authorities approving paperwork in time so that food can be moved swiftly, it means checkpoints allow trucks to pass and reach their destination, it means humanitarian responders are not targeted, so they are able to carry out their life- and livelihood-saving work.

The report provided country-specific recommendations to protect rural livelihoods and increase agricultural production. These include: Short-term protective interventions be implemented before new humanitarian needs materialise and immediate actions be taken for addressing existing humanitarian requirements. 

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