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, a report has said.
According to an annual joint report by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) titled “2021 Global Report on Food Crises” launched Wednesday, 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.
It said at least 155 million people experienced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels across 55 countries in 2020, an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year, and raises a stark warning about a worrisome trend, acute food insecurity has kept up its relentless rise since 2017.
Of these, around 133 thousand 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 the Emergency level of acute food insecurity in 2020, meaning they were one step away from starvation across 38 countries where urgent action saved lives and livelihoods and prevented famine spreading,” the report said.
According to the report, thirty-nine (39) countries have experienced food crises during the last five years.
“In these countries, 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 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, two out of three were on the African continent,” it said.
But other parts of the world have also not been spared, with countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the ten worst food crises last year.
“The ten worst food crises account for 66 per cent over 103 million people of the people estimated to face high levels of acute food insecurity in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Northern Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen and Zimbabwe,” it said.
The report emphasises the need to act urgently and decisively and calls for the international community to mobilise against hunger.
“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,” the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, said in the foreword of the report.
“One year after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for 2021 and beyond is grim.
“Conflict and pandemic-related to restrictions fuelling economic hardship and the persistent threat of adverse weather conditions will likely continue driving food crises,” said the EU, FAO, WFP 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.”
“The protracted nature of most food crises shows that long-term environmental, social and economic trends compounded by increasing conflict and insecurity are eroding the resilience of agri-food systems. If current trends are not reversed, food crises will increase in frequency and severity.”
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