Over 135 million people in 55 countries and territories were faced with acute food insecurity in 2019, and this requires urgent action, the 2019 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) has said.
The report said the situation could worsen this year due to the impact of COVID-19, but the precise magnitude of the deterioration is not yet known.
The report, its fourth edition released Tuesday, said the global figure has never been this high.
The report showed that about 108 million people in 48 countries in 2016, 124 million people in 51 countries in 2017 and 113 million people in 53 countries in 2018, suffered acute food insecurity.
Of the 135 million in 2019, Africa accounts for 73 million, half of whom are in 36 of Africa’s 55 countries. Northern Nigeria alone accounts for 5 million, the report said.
War-torn Yemen; Africa’s fourth most populous country, DR Congo and Afghanistan topped the report’s list, each respectively having 15.9, 15.6 and 11.3 million people faced with food crises “or worse”.
The report defined food insecurity as lack of secured access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal human growth and development.
The report found that in 2019, 183 million people in 47 countries were ‘stressed’, of which 129 million live in Africa, 25 million in the Middle East and Asia, while 28 million were in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This, it said, put them “at high risk of sliding into acute food insecurity if confronted by additional shocks – which is particularly worrisome in light of the anticipated evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It added that in the 55 food-crisis countries, 75 million children were stunted, while 17 million of children suffered from wasting.
Wasting is explained as a low weight for height ratio mostly in children under five caused by acute significant food shortage or disease. Stunting is a low height for age condition in children under two caused by long-term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections.
“Limited access to nutritionally diverse diets, clean drinking water, sanitation, and healthcare,” the report added, “continues to weaken the health and nutrition status of children living in food crises, which has dire consequences for their development and long term productivity.”
It said food crisis from the previous year was largely spurred by conflict and insecurity, “although extreme weather and economic shocks became more pronounced”.
The report was facilitated by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) in partnership with 16 others, including the European Union, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Food Security Cluster, Global Nutrition Cluster, International Food Policy Research institute, World Food Programmes.
The report tracked the numbers and locations of vulnerable people in need of emergency food, nutrition and livelihood assistance in different regions of the world. Also, it captured how acute food insecurity and malnutrition conditions have changed over time.
The report said “the situation could worsen this year due to the impact of COVID-19, but the precise magnitude of the deterioration is not yet known.”
“Declines in economic activity, combined with trade restrictions, are likely to diminish national budgets, reduce household incomes, and may lead to rises in food prices. Critical food value chains are at risk of disruption,” the report explained.
Also, it noted that in under-resourced and vulnerable nations, the COVID-19 pandemic could have serious effects on food security.
“Across the world, people are being personally affected by COVID-19, including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and other high-income nations.
“They may find it increasingly difficult to prioritise the need to assist populations affected by food crises abroad when the social and economic situations in their own countries are also greatly affected.”
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