Pakistan, Afghanistan among global hunger hotspots: UN report

Conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks driving communities into crisis; Sudan conflict can impact several neighbouring countries

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Monday 29 May 2023
Urgent humanitarian action is needed to save lives and livelihoods and prevent starvation and death in hotspots where acute hunger is at a high risk of worsening from June to November 2023. Photo: iStock

India’s neighbours, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar, are among the hunger hotspots in the world, a new United Nations early warning report has found, warning of increasing acute food insecurity in several parts of the world. 

Deepening economic shocks continue to drive low- and middle-income nations deeper into crisis and a likely El Nino climatic phenomenon is raising fears of climate extremes in vulnerable countries around the globe, showed Hunger Hotspots – FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity issued May 29, 2023. 

Read more: Hungry nation: 70% Indians cannot afford healthy diet

Urgent humanitarian action is needed to save lives and livelihoods and prevent starvation and death in hotspots where acute hunger is at a high risk of worsening from June to November 2023. 

Acute food insecurity can potentially increase in magnitude and severity for 18 areas in 22 countries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). 

Source: FAO

Many hotspots are facing growing hunger crises, the report said, highlighting the worrying multiplier effect that simultaneous and overlapping shocks are having on acute food insecurity. Conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks continue to drive more and more communities into crisis. 

Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen remain at the highest concern level, the report said. Haiti, the Sahel (Burkina Faso and Mali) and Sudan have been elevated to the highest concern levels. 

These countries have populations facing or projected to face starvation or are at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions, given they already have critical food insecurity and are facing severe aggravating factors. These countries require the most urgent attention. 

Read more: The global food system still benefits the rich at the expense of the poor

Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Syrian Arab Republic are hotspots with very high concern. The warning is also extended to Myanmar. 

These hotspots have many people facing critical acute food insecurity, coupled with worsening drivers that are expected to intensify life‑threatening conditions in the coming months.

Lebanon, El Salvador and Nicaragua have also been added to the list of hunger hotspot countries, since the September 2022 edition of the report. Malawi, Guatemala and Honduras remain hunger hotspot countries.

QU Dongyu, FAO director-general said:

Business-as-usual pathways are no longer an option in today’s risk landscape if we want to achieve global food security for all, ensuring that no one is left behind

Sudan crisis spillover

New emerging conflicts, in particular the eruption of conflict in Sudan, will likely drive global conflict trends and impact several neighbouring countries, the FAO and WFP said. 

Read more: Quarter of a billion people are facing acute hunger: Report

The spillover from the crisis in Sudan is driving massive population displacement and hunger among people forced from their homes in search of refuge and those hosting them, the report warned.

More than one million people are expected to flee the country, while an additional 2.5 million inside the country set to face acute hunger in coming months. 

The Sudan was already hosting over one million refugees — and if the conflict persists, hundreds of thousands are likely to return to their counties of origin.

Many of these countries are already in the grips of underfunded and protracted refugee crises, compounded by social, political and economic stressors, the report said.

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