Acute food insecurity to rise in 18 ‘hunger hotspots’, warn aid agencies

A girl carries water to her home at a camp for forcibly displaced people  in Bentiu, South Sudan.
© UNICEF/Mark Naftalin
A girl carries water to her home at a camp for forcibly displaced people in Bentiu, South Sudan.
  • UN News

Although many “hunger hotspots” are in Africa, fears of famine persist in Gaza and Sudan, where conflict continues to rage, fuelling the regional risk of new hunger emergencies, warned the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Once a famine is declared, it is too late – many people will have already starved to death,” said Cindy McCain, WFP Executive Director. “In Somalia in 2011, half of the 250,000 people who died of hunger perished before famine was officially declared. The world failed to heed the warnings at the time and the repercussions were catastrophic. We must learn the lesson and act now to stop these hotspots from igniting a firestorm of hunger.”

The UN-agency partnered early warning report which covers 17 countries and the drought-hit cluster of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe – warns that Mali, Palestine, Sudan and South Sudan remain at the highest alert level and require the most urgent attention. Haiti was also added to that list amid escalating violence and threats to food security.

South Sudan focus

The devastating hunger crises underway in South Sudan is so bad that the number of people facing starvation and death there is projected to almost double between April and July 2024, compared to the same period in 2023.

“Tight domestic food supplies and sharp currency depreciation are driving food prices to soar, compounded by likely floods and recurrent waves of subnational conflict, the report explained, in reference to South Sudan. “A projected further rise of returnees and refugees from the Sudan is likely to increase acute food insecurity among both new arrivals and host communities.”

Chad, Syria and Yemen in spotlight, too

Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen are also hotspots of “very high concern”, the report noted.

“A large number of people” in these countries face critical acute food insecurity, coupled with worsening drivers that are expected to further intensify life-threatening conditions in the coming months.

Since October 2023, the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zambia joined Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Somalia and Zimbabwe on the list of hunger hotspots, where acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in coming months.

Climate extremes remain

Although conflict remains one of the main drivers of food insecurity, the joint early warning report from WFP and FAO emphasized that climate shocks are responsible too, not least the “still lingering” El Niño.

Although that weather phenomenon is now coming to an end, “it is evident that its impact was severe and widespread”, the report’s authors insisted, pointing to devastating drought in southern Africa and extensive floods in east Africa.

Turning to the potential impact and “looming threat” of La Niña between August and February 2025, the UN agencies’ assessment is that it is expected to “significantly” influence rainfall. This could lead to a climate shift with “major implications” in several countries including flooding in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Chad, Mali and Nigeria, as well as Sudan.

Preventing starvation and death

Both weather phenomenons could bring further climate extremes “that could upend lives and livelihoods”, the UN-partnered report warned, in support of calls for immediate humanitarian action delivered at scale “to prevent further starvation and death”.

© UN News (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News