03.04.2019 |

Report: 113 million people worldwide face severe food insecurity

Many children are affected by malnutrition (Photo: CC0)

Around 113 million people in 53 countries worldwide faced severe food insecurity in 2018, finds a new report released by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN), an initiative of food security and development institutions, UN agencies and the EU. According to the “2019 Global Report on Food Crises”, the figure is down slightly from the 124 million people in 51 countries who faced acute hunger in 2017. However, the number of acutely food-insecure people has remained well over 100 million in the last three years, and the number of countries affected has risen. Moreover, an additional 143 million people in another 42 countries are just one step away from facing acute hunger. “It is clear from the Global Report that despite a slight drop in 2018 in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity – the most extreme form of hunger – the figure is still far 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,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The number of people facing acute hunger whose lives are in immediate danger is just the tip of the iceberg. Worldwide, 821 million people are chronically undernourished.

Almost two-thirds of those facing acute hunger, or 72 million people, live in just 8 countries: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan and northern Nigeria. In 17 countries, acute hunger either remained the same or increased. Conflict and insecurity remained the key driver in 2018. Some 74 million people were located in 21 countries and territories affected by conflict or insecurity, mostly in Africa and Western Asia/Middle East. Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into acute food insecurity in 2018. 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. Some countries, such as North Korea and Venezuela, are not in the analysis due to data gaps. “Venezuela has experienced severe economic and political turmoil that triggered massive increases in the price of food and other basic commodities. This hyperinflation has drastically cut people’s purchasing power, curbing access to food. Many of the Venezuelans seeking refuge in neighbouring countries have exhausted their means to buy food,” the report warns.

Ending conflicts, empowering women, nourishing and educating children, improving rural infrastructure and reinforcing social safety-nets are essential for a resilient, stable and hunger-free world, the report says. It further highlights the need for a unified approach and action across the humanitarian and development dimensions of food crises, and for more investment in conflict mitigation and sustainable peace. “Programmes that make a community resilient and more stable will also reduce the number of hungry people,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme. Reacting to the report, international development organisation Oxfam said the response to this human-made crisis caused by conflict, climate change and a broken global food system has been tragically inadequate. “Governments in rich and poor countries alike have promised bold reforms, but delivered little. That must change,” said Oxfam France’s Executive Director Cécile Duflot. “Decades of bad policy making have led to the corporate takeover of our food and agricultural systems where ensuring a decent income for farmers or a sustainable food supply comes a poor second to securing shareholder returns. At the same time, governments have failed to invest in, or provide development aid for, smallholder agriculture – even though smallholder farmers, many of which are women, play a critical role in feeding hundreds of millions of people across the globe.” (ab)

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