According to the Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2021, 155 million people faced crisis levels of food insecurity in 2020 which was as a result of conflict, extreme weather events and economic shocks linked in part to COVID-19.
In the 39 countries and territories that experienced food crises across five years of GRFC publications, the population affected by high levels of acute food insecurity increased from 94 to 147 million people between 2016 and 2020. This shows an overall worrisome trend of increasing levels of acute food insecurity.
The ten worst food crises account for 66 percent – over 103 million people – of the people estimated to face high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above): Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, northern Nigeria, South Sudan, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Food Insecurity in Africa
African countries disproportionally affected”, it said, adding that conflict pushed almost 100 million people into acute food insecurity, followed by economic shocks (40 million) and weather extremes (16 million).
“Conflict and hunger are mutually reinforcing. We need to tackle hunger and conflict together to solve either…We must do everything we can to end this vicious cycle. Addressing hunger is a foundation for stability and peace” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres, writing in the report.
Basing its assessments on the IPC scale for Acute Food Insecurity, the GNAFC network – which includes the UN World Food Programme (WFP) – revealed that the worst-affected countries were Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen.
Across these countries, around 133,000 people were at IPC5 – the highest level of need – and they required immediate action “to avert widespread death and a collapse of livelihoods”, the Network’s report said.
Close to 98 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 – or two out of three – were on the African continent.
Food Insecurity beyond Africa
Other parts of the world were not spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti featuring among the 10 worst food crises last year.
The authors of the report – the United Nations, the European Union as well as government and non-government agencies – also noted that 39 countries and territories had experienced food crises in the last five years.
In these countries and territories, the population affected by high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC3 or worse) increased from 94 to 147 million people, between 2016 and 2020, the global network said.
It added that in the 55 food-crisis countries and territories covered by the report, more than 75 million children under five were stunted and at least 15 million showed signs of wasting in 2020.
While conflict will remain the major driver of food crises in 2021, COVID-19 and related containment measures and weather extremes will continue to exacerbate acute food insecurity in fragile economies.
The impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of the global food system and the need for more equitable, sustainable and resilient systems to nutritiously and consistently feed 8.5 billion people by 2030.
A radical transformation of our agri-food systems is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, said the European Union (EU), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) – founding members of the Global Network – together with the US international development agency, USAID, in a statement.
The food crises profiled in the GRFC are being driven by a combination of several drivers that were often mutually reinforcing, creating compounded crises:
Conflict remained the main driver at the global level, with 99 million people in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in 23 countries and territories where conflict and insecurity were the primary driver, up from 77 million in 22 countries and territories in 2019.
Economic shocks, heavily related to measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, were the second most important driver, with nearly 40 million people in Crisis and worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 and above) in 17 countries; up from 24 million in eight countries in 2019.
Weather extremes were the primary driver of acute food insecurity in 15 countries with around 16 million people affected in 2020, showing a decrease from 34 million in 25 countries in 2019.