Acute food insecurity hit record highs around the world in 2021

The war in Ukraine threatens to aggravate an already dramatic situation. Acute food insecurity has reached a new peak in 2021. It has affected nearly 40 million additional people as a result of conflicts, climate crises and economic shocks, the global food crisis network warned on Wednesday.

Last year, 193 million people in 53 countries were in acute food insecurity, needing emergency assistance to survive. This means that, even with assistance, many have suffered from acute malnutrition, indicate the 17 actors of this network, created in 2016 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (MAP), the European Union and NGOs.

Numbers increasing at “an alarming rate”

This classification encompasses levels 3 to 5 of the international food security scale: “crisis”, “emergency” and “disaster”. Even if the widening of the geographical coverage pulls the figures upwards, they have not stopped growing “at an alarming rate”, “with uninterrupted increases each year since 2018” and a record in 2021, underlines the WFP.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, underway since the end of February, promises to aggravate the fragilities of countries very dependent on exports of Russian and Ukrainian cereals or fertilizers, such as Somalia. As well as the terrible drought that is hitting the Horn of Africa at the moment.

Bad future prospects

Projections for 2022, which at this stage only include 42 of the 53 countries concerned, estimate that 179 to 181.1 million people could suffer from acute food insecurity this year. The war in Ukraine “has already highlighted the interconnected nature and the fragility of food systems”, notes the FAO, which warns that “the prospects for the future are not good”.

“What we see today is unacceptable (…) we must guarantee the sustainability of food systems, especially for the most vulnerable,” defended Qu Dongyu, Director General of the FAO, during a presentation of the report on Wednesday. . “No one should be left behind, we must address the root causes of the problem, not just the consequences,” he pleaded.

Conflicts, at the heart of food insecurity

In Ethiopia, South Sudan or Madagascar, more than half a million people needed “urgent action to avert the widespread collapse of livelihoods, starvation and death”, this figure having multiplied by six since 2016. The increase recorded in 2021 stems from a “triple toxic combination of conflicts, extreme weather events, and economic shocks”, details the FAO.

Conflict remains the main driver of food insecurity for 139 million people, with countries experiencing political and humanitarian crises such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen being the most affected . The economic difficulties linked to the Covid-19 pandemic have also pushed 30.2 million people into acute hunger. In addition to episodes of extreme drought and now the war in Ukraine, crises are accumulating and are “so many factors that exacerbate” risks in Africa, warn specialists.

Additional $1.5 billion needed

However, the amount of international aid disbursed to 55 countries and territories was at the lowest level recorded in five years, lament the members of the network. At the beginning of April, several countries had promised to increase their food aid allocated to the Sahel and West Africa to 1.79 billion euros.

However, an additional 1.5 billion dollars would be needed to act now during the planting season, in order to increase production and make populations less dependent on aid, estimates the FAO. “We have solutions and money in the banks: we must use it to guarantee global security,” said WFP director David Beasly on Wednesday.

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