Acute food insecurity soars to five-year high: UN report

Business Saturday 08/May/2021 17:11 PM
Acute food insecurity soars to five-year high: UN report
Photo used for illustrative purpose only

Brussels: The number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood-saving assistance has hit a five-year high in 2020 in countries beset by food crises, an annual report launched by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) has found.

GNAFC is an international alliance of the UN, the EU, governmental and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises together.

The stark warning from the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises shows that conflict or economic shocks that are often related to COVID-19 along with extreme weather are continuing to push millions of people into acute food insecurity.

The report said that at least 155 million people experienced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels across 55 countries/territories in 2020, marking an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year.

Of these, around 133 000 people were classified in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity in 2020 in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen where urgent action was needed to avert widespread death and a collapse of livelihoods.

At least another 28 million people faced an emergency level of acute food insecurity in 2020 - meaning they were one step away from starvation - across 38 countries/territories where urgent action saved lives and livelihoods and prevented famine from spreading.

A total of 39 countries/territories have experienced food crises during the five years that the GNAFC has been publishing its annual report. The population affected by high levels of acute food insecurity increased from 94 to 147 million people between 2016 and 2020.
Additionally, in the 55 food-crisis countries/territories covered by the report, over 75 million children under five were stunted (too short) and over 15 million wasted (too thin) in 2020.

Countries in Africa remained disproportionally affected by acute food insecurity. Close to 98 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 - or two out of three - were on the African continent. But other parts of the world have also not been spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the 10 worst food crises last year.
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.

"One year after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for 2021 and beyond is grim. Conflict, pandemic-related restrictions fuelling economic hardship and the persistent threat of adverse weather conditions will likely continue driving food crises," said the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) - founding members of the Global Network - together with USAID in a joint statement released with the report.

"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."

GNAFC emphasised the need to act urgently and decisively and called for the international community to mobilise against hunger.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the foreword of the report, "Conflict and hunger are mutually reinforcing. We need to tackle hunger and conflict together. We must do everything we can to end this vicious cycle. Addressing hunger is a foundation for stability and peace."