60 Percent of the World’s Hungry Live in Just 8 Countries. Why?

World Food Program USA
April 18, 2019
The number one cause of hunger around the world is clear.

WFP assists 91.4 million people across 83 countries each year. Of these, 56 million of them are concentrated in only 8 countries. Why? According to two new reports , the reason is clear: Man-made conflict is the #1 driver of hunger on the planet. Here are the eight countries that 60 percent of the world’s hungry people call home:

  • Yemen
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • Afghanistan
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • The Lake Chad Basin
  • The Central African Republic
  • Somalia

The report shows that the link between conflict and hunger is not only undeniable, it is persistent and it is deadly.

Source: Monitoring Food Security in Countries with Conflict Situations. A joint FAO/WFP update for the United Nations Security Council, January 2019.

Starvation as a Tool of War

In May of 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a landmark resolution that condemned the use of starvation as a tool of war. It calls on all those engaged in armed conflict to comply with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to minimize the impact of military actions on civilians. This specifically includes the hampering of food production and distribution and allowing humanitarian access in a safe and timely manner.

An especially dark finding in the report is that violence against humanitarian workers is also growing, sometimes forcing them to suspend operations and deprive vulnerable populations of assistance. In 2018, aid workers and facilities were attacked in all eight of the countries listed above.

Shocking statistics

The growing number of long-term conflicts in the world is creating unprecedented and unacceptable levels of hunger:

Yemen is the world’s largest food security emergency. With 16 million people waking up hungry every day, it is a stark demonstration of the urgent need for an end to hostilities. Moreover, conflicting parties disregard the protected status of humanitarian facilities and personnel, which makes it difficult and dangerous to scale-up operations and prevent famine.

Photo: Marco Frattini/WFP

One of the many fathers I met visiting malnutrition wards in Yemen.

In the second half of 2018, the DRC had the second highest number of acutely food insecure people – 13 million – driven by a rise in armed conflict.

The percentage of rural Afghans facing acute food deficits is projected to reach 10.6 million people (or 47 percent of the country’s entire population) by March if urgent life-saving assistance is not provided.

South Sudan
In South Sudan, where civil strife has persisted for more than five years, the hunger season is expected to start earlier than normal this year. This season is marked by a dramatic drop in agricultural production due to drought followed by unending rain, which makes growing crops nearly impossible and makes roads impassable for humanitarian workers. This year, the number of those in need of urgent support is expected to reach more than 5 million between January and March 2019.

Lake Chad basin
Across the Lake Chad basin, where Boko Haram militants are active, a major deterioration in food security is projected during this year’s lean season (June–August 2019), and 3 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity.

Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic, armed conflict remained the main driver of hunger in 2018, with 1.9 million people experiencing severe food deficits.

“I would strongly encourage you to keep in mind that behind these seemingly dry statistics are real people experiencing rates of hunger that are simply unacceptable in the 21st century,” says FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley agreed, calling for an end to the suffering: “We need better and quicker access in all conflict zones, so we can get to more of the civilians who need our help. But what the world needs most of all is an end to the wars.”

Do you think it’s wrong that so many people are going hungry because of entirely preventable causes?

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For more information, view Monitoring Food Security in Countries with Conflict Situations and the 2019 Global Report on Food Crises.