6 Hunger Catastrophes You Might Not Know About

Emergency Response Central African Republic Congo, DR Ethiopia Libya Mali Ukraine

You’ve seen the headlines about looming famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

But many more hunger crises go ignored.

Here are six catastrophes — many driven by conflict and extreme weather — that you need to know about:

1. Ethiopia

A young child in his mother's arms, as she also holds a bottle of WFP-issued vegetable oil
WFP/Michael Tewelde
A food distribution in the Hadew village of Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Back-to-back droughts in the Horn of Africa have left more than 10 million people in need of food assistance in Ethiopia — with the country’s Somali region at the epicenter. Families have made dangerous sacrifices to keep food on the table, selling undernourished livestock at low prices.

The response led by the government has begun to stabilize the situation, but additional support is urgently needed to prevent the situation from worsening, especially in the hardest-hit southern and eastern parts of Ethiopia where spring rains failed for the third consecutive year.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is targeting 5.5 million people in Ethiopia with emergency food and cash assistance, as well as nutrition interventions for children, mothers and refugees.

2. Central African Republic (CAR)

An elderly woman receives food vouchers from a WFP aid worker
WFP/Bruno Djoyo
For thousands of people who have been displaced or impacted by the CAR crisis, WFP’s food vouchers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort.

The civil war in CAR continues, and a surge in violence earlier this year forced massive numbers of people to flee their homes, exacerbating humanitarian needs. As of late July 2017, almost half of the country’s population is food-insecure, and over 40 percent of children under age 5 are stunted.

“If we do not act now… we will see increasing need and even greater vulnerability of already weakened people,” said U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien after a recent trip to CAR, “And even greater stress on the capacity of humanitarians and funding.”

WFP and its partners are distributing food and specialized nutritious products to the most vulnerable around the country. The agency has until now used its own resources to support the emergency response — reallocating food from other programs. Its emergency operation is running out of stock and only one-quarter funded.

3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

A baby in its mothers arms has a band measurement around his arm, indicating the color yellow
WFP/Jonathan Dumont
A baby is measured for mid-upper arm circumference before receiving nutrition assistance at the Soeurs de Saint Joseph de Arbes Health Center.

The DRC’s under-reported crisis in the remote Kasai region is extremely alarming. Thousands have been killed and buried in mass graves, and close to 4 million people — 90 percent of the region’s population — have fled their homes to the forest, to host families and into neighboring Angola, as of late August 2017. Close to 8 million are in need of food assistance.

During a recent visit to the area, WFP Director of Emergencies Denise Brown described the testimony of a woman who lost her husband and five of her children as “traumatizing even for the listener, let alone for the survivors.”

WFP and partner World Vision International have already been working to provide food to 91,000 people and plan to reach over 251,000 internally displaced people through an emergency operation launched in September 2017. This food includes High-Energy Biscuits, cornmeal, beans, vegetable oil and salt, alongside specialized nutritious food to treat malnutrition in children and pregnant and nursing mothers.

4. Libya

An elderly man in a skullcap and beard sits with his cane outside a warehouse, looking down
WFP/Mohamaed Ben Khalif
An elderly, internally displaced man sits at a warehouse where WFP food rations are being distributed in Tripoli’s Al Fallah Camp.

Efforts to reach peace in Libya continue amidst persistent political instability and a deteriorating security situation. Fighting amongst militias in the second Libyan civil war has resulted in heavy casualties and over 256,000 people internally displaced, alongside those who have returned or migrated into the country. As of early June 2017, over a million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

With food insecurity on the rise, families are resorting to cutting meals, taking their children out of school and reducing healthcare expenses.

Due to a lack in funding and late food arrivals, WFP reached only 20,000 people with food assistance out of a planned 90,000 in May 2017. However, the agency has been able to assist over 78,000 people this year with assistance that includes rice, pasta, chickpeas, wheat flour, vegetable oil, tomato paste and sugar.

5. Mali

A group of girls sits on the ground, eating and chatting over a shared bowl of food
WFP/Sebastien Rieussec
A group of young girls sit around a bowl of food, eating their meal at the Yarka School in Mali’s Kayes region.

Five years of conflict and insecurity in northern Mali, coupled with drought and erratic rainfall, have fed an ongoing crisis. Despite three consecutive seasons of good harvest and a shaky peace agreement in 2015, one-fifth of the country’s population does not know where its next meal is coming from and one-third of all children are acutely malnourished.

WFP is working to reinforce food security and resilience and support the local economy through food assistance, nutrition interventions, school meals, infrastructure building and collaboration with the government.

The agency is making a huge difference, but as of early August 2017, its operations are only half-funded for the rest of the year.

6. Ukraine

A young girl sits on WFP food boxes given to her family
WFP/Tatiana Stoliarenko
WFP and partner Save the Children run a food distribution for those impacted by the conflict in the Donetsk region.

Both the security situation in Ukraine — with continued hostilities since 2014 — and the humanitarian situation remain a concern. Public infrastructures are constantly targeted, putting access to clean water, gas and electricity at risk for millions in the eastern part of the country. Here, some 800,000 people are food-insecure, as of late August 2017.

Between November 2014 and the end of June 2017, WFP provided both food and cash assistance to 970,000 of the most vulnerable people — prioritizing the elderly, female-headed households, the chronically ill, those with disabilities and children without guardians.

The agency is also gradually supporting early recovery and rehabilitating programs through which individuals can gain skills and training and can rebuild infrastructure.

Help WFP Respond to Emergencies

When conflict and disaster strike, WFP is often the first on the ground and the last to leave. But it can't provide vital food aid without your support.