New Delhi: A record 193 million people in 53 countries faced acute food crises in 2021, which is 40 million more than the number of people who went without enough food in 2020, finds a new report.
The report by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) classified about 570,000 people in Ethiopia, southern Madagascar, South Sudan, and Yemen in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity, “catastrophe” phase 5.
These required urgent action to avert widespread collapse of livelihoods, starvation and death.
The GNAFC is an international alliance of the UN, the European Union, governmental and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises together.
“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels and the global situation just keeps on getting worse,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), in a statement.
The report identified conflict as the main driver behind rising acute food insecurity in 2021. This pushed 139 million people in 24 countries/territories into acute food insecurity, up from around 99 million in 23 countries/territories in 2020.
Other key drivers include weather extremes – over 23 million people in 8 countries/territories, up from 15.7 million in 15 countries/territories; and economic shocks – over 30 million people in 21 countries/territories, down from over 40 million people in 17 countries/territories in 2020 mainly due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are facing hunger on an unprecedented scale, food prices have never been higher, and millions of lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wrote in the Foreword of the GNAFC report.
“The war in Ukraine is supercharging a three-dimensional crisis – food, energy and finance – with devastating impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people, countries and economies,” he added.
He noted this comes at a time when developing countries are already struggling with cascading challenges such as “the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and inadequate resources”.
The report’s findings demonstrate the need for a greater prioritisation of smallholder agriculture as a frontline humanitarian response.
Furthermore, it advocates for promoting structural changes to current external financing, to reduce humanitarian assistance over time through longer-term development investments, which can help tackle the root causes of hunger. In parallel, humanitarian assistance must be provided more efficiently and sustainably.