FAO and WFP warn of impending widespread food crisis

Report calls for urgent humanitarian action


June 11, 2022

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4 minute read

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) have issued a stark warning about the multiple and imminent food crises, caused by conflicts, climatic shocks, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive public debt burden – exacerbated by the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine which has caused food and fuel prices to accelerate in many countries to worldwide. These shocks strike in contexts already characterized by rural marginalization and the fragility of agri-food systems.

The report “Hunger Hotspots – FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity” calls for urgent humanitarian action in 20 “hunger hotspots” where acute hunger is expected to worsen from June to September 2022 – to save lives and livelihoods, and prevent famine.

The report warns that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the already steady rise in food and energy prices around the world, which is already affecting economic stability in all regions. The effects are expected to be particularly acute where economic instability and soaring prices combine with declines in food production due to climatic shocks such as recurrent droughts or floods.

“We are deeply concerned about the combined impacts of overlapping crises that are compromising people’s ability to produce and access food, pushing millions more into extreme levels of acute food insecurity,” the director said. FAO General, QU Dongyu. “We are in a race against time to help farmers in the most affected countries, including by rapidly increasing potential food production and building their resilience in the face of challenges.”

“We are facing a perfect storm that is not only going to hit the poorest of the poor – it will also overwhelm millions of families who until now have barely kept their heads above water,” warned WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“Conditions are now much worse than during the Arab Spring in 2011 and the food price crisis of 2007-2008, when 48 countries were rocked by political unrest, riots and protests,” he said. . “We have already seen what is happening in Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru and Sri Lanka – this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have solutions. But we have to act, and act fast.”

Main findings

The report finds that alongside conflict, frequent and recurrent climate shocks continue to cause acute hunger and shows that we have entered a “new normal” where droughts, floods, hurricanes and cyclones are repeatedly decimating the world. agriculture and animal husbandry, are displacing people and pushing millions to the brink in countries around the world.

The report warns that worrying La Niña-related climate trends since late 2020 are expected to continue into 2022, driving up humanitarian needs and acute hunger. An unprecedented drought in East Africa affecting Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya results in a fourth consecutive season of below-average rainfall, while South Sudan will face its fourth consecutive year of large-scale flooding. scale, which will likely continue to drive people from their homes and devastate crops and livestock production. The report also predicts above-average rains and a risk of localized flooding in the Sahel, a more intense hurricane season in the Caribbean and below-average rains in Afghanistan – which is already reeling from several seasons of drought. , violence and political upheaval.

The report also highlights the urgency of the dire macroeconomic conditions in several countries – brought on by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by the recent upheaval in global food and energy markets. These conditions lead to dramatic income losses among the poorest communities and strain the ability of national governments to finance social safety nets, income support measures and the importation of essential goods.

According to the report, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen remain on “high alert” as hotspots with catastrophic conditions, and Afghanistan and Somalia are new entries in this worrying category since the end of the month. hotspots report last released in January 2022. These six countries all have parts of the population facing IPC Phase 5 “Catastrophe” or at risk of deterioration to catastrophic conditions, with up to 750,000 people facing starvation and death. 400,000 of them are in Ethiopia’s Tigray region – the highest number recorded in any country since the Somalia famine in 2011.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, the Sahel, Sudan and Syria remain “very concerning” with deteriorating critical conditions, as in the previous edition of this report – with Kenya a new entry on the list. Sri Lanka, the West African coastal countries (Benin, Cabo Verde and Guinea), Ukraine and Zimbabwe have been added to the list of hot countries, joining Angola, Lebanon, Madagascar and the Mozambique which continue to be hunger hotspots – according to the report.

Stepping up anticipatory action to prevent disasters

The report provides concrete, country-specific recommendations on priorities for immediate humanitarian response to save lives, prevent famine and protect livelihoods, as well as proactive measures. The recent G7 engagement underscored the importance of strengthening proactive action in humanitarian and development assistance – ensuring that predictable hazards do not turn into full-blown humanitarian disasters.

FAO and WFP have partnered to increase the scale and reach of proactive action, to protect the lives, food security and livelihoods of communities before they need life-saving assistance in the critical window between early warning and shock. Flexible humanitarian funding enables FAO and WFP to anticipate humanitarian needs and save lives. Evidence shows that for every US$1 invested in anticipatory action to protect lives and livelihoods, up to US$7 can be saved in averting losses to disaster-affected communities.

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