Aid agencies call for urgent action to prevent famine in hunger hotspots

The recent influx of refugees increases the total number to 417,000 South Sudanese people who have been displaced by civil conflict and famine since December 2013. Image courtesy: UNCHR

People in four food insecurity “hotspots” inside Burkina Faso, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen, need help urgently to avoid sliding into famine, UN humanitarians have said.

KARIN SARMAYO, SOMALIA – FEBRUARY 24: Men pray at an IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp on February 24, 2017, in Karin Sarmayo, Somalia. Brief rains brought an estimated 100,000 people to the region in search of land for their livestock, but very limited pasture has lead to mass animal deaths and a growing number of IDP camps. Somalia is currently on the brink of famine with over half of the country’s population facing acute food insecurity according to the United Nations. The intensifying crisis has humanitarian groups racing to stop a repeat of 2011, in which 260,000 people died of famine throughout the country. /Getty Images

“We are concerned that they may be facing an elevated risk of famine if the situation would further deteriorate over the coming months”, said Claudia Ah Poe, senior food security adviser at the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking at a press conference at UN Geneva.

In a joint alert with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFP also warned that 16 other countries also face a “major (food) emergency – or series of emergencies” in the next three to six months.

The drivers of these humanitarian crises include long-running conflict and a lack of humanitarian access to communities in need; climate extremes and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, they said in a new report on food insecurity hotspots.

At-risk nations

At-risk nations include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where 22 million people are acutely food insecure, the highest number ever registered for a single country – Ethiopia, Haiti, and Venezuela.

“These countries already had significant acute food insecurity levels in 2020…and are now facing a risk of a further rapid deterioration over the next months”, said WFP’s food security advisor Ah Poe.

Pandemic fallout

Data from March to September has also shown that while in many countries COVID-19-related restrictions were progressively lifted, allowing economic activity to resume, food insecurity has worsened in 27 countries, with up to 104.6 million people in need.

In 2019, the number of people facing similar levels of food insecurity in these 27 countries was 97.6 million, according to WFP.

“In those 27 countries, the number of people that are already facing acute food insecurity is (sic) more than 100 million already. Analysis obviously is continuously ongoing so we expect this number to increase much more,” said Poe.

“And earlier on this year, we… had estimated in the countries where we are operating – which is around 80 countries – an additional 121 million people would be at risk of falling into food insecurity.”

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