Rising conflict, climate extremes, and economic instability aggravated by the lingering impacts of COVID-19 and the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine are among the key drivers

ROME – The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide is expected to continue to rise steeply as the food crisis tightens its grip on 19 ‘hunger hotspots.’ This sharp rise in hunger is driven by rising conflict, weather extremes, and economic instability aggravated by the pandemic and the ripple effects of the crisis in Ukraine, a joint UN report has found.

The ‘Hunger Hotspots – FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity’ report – issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) calls for urgent humanitarian action to save lives and livelihoods and prevent famine in hotspot countries where acute food insecurity is expected to worsen from October 2022 to January 2023. The report lays out country-specific recommendations on priorities for anticipatory action – short-term protective measures to be put in place before new humanitarian needs materialize – and emergency response – actions to address existing humanitarian needs.

“The severe drought in the Horn of Africa has pushed people to the brink of starvation, destroying crops and killing livestock on which their survival depends. Acute food insecurity is rising fast and spreading across the world. People in the poorest countries in particular who have yet to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are suffering from the ripple effects of ongoing conflicts, in terms of prices, food and fertilizer supplies, as well as the climate emergency. Without a massively scaled up humanitarian response that has at its core time-sensitive and lifesaving agricultural assistance, the situation will likely worsen in many countries in the coming months,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

“This is the third time in 10 years that Somalia has been threatened with a devastating famine. The famine in 2011 was caused by two consecutive failed rainy seasons as well as conflict. Today we’re staring at a perfect storm: a likely fifth consecutive failed rainy season that will see drought lasting well into 2023. But the people at the sharp end of today’s crisis are also facing soaring food prices and severely limited opportunities to earn a living following the pandemic. We urgently need to get help to those in grave danger of starvation in Somalia and the world’s other hunger hotspots,” said the U.N. World Food Programme’s Executive Director David Beasley.

The report spotlights the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, where the longest drought in over 40 years is forecast to continue – with the fifth failed rainy season in a row on the horizon – adding to the cumulative, devastating effects that successive rainfall deficits, economic crises and conflict have had on vulnerable households since 2020. Water scarcity has led to below average harvests, livestock deaths and forced hundreds of thousands of people off their land in search of sustenance, while increasing the risk of intercommunal and resource-based conflict.

Up to 26 million people are expected to face Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 and above) levels of food insecurity in Somalia, southern and eastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya. With humanitarian assistance at risk of being cut due to funding shortfalls, the possibility of large-scale deaths from hunger looms large in Somalia with famine likely to take hold in the districts of Baidoa and Burhakaba in Bay Region come October. Without an adequate humanitarian response, analysts expect that by December, as many as four children or two adults per 10,000 people will die every day. Hundreds of thousands are already facing starvation today with staggering levels of malnutrition expected among children under the age of 5.

Globally, an all-time high of 970,000 people are expected to face catastrophic hunger (IPC Phase 5) and are starving or projected to starve or at risk of deterioration to catastrophic conditions in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen if no action is taken – ten times more than six years ago when only two countries had populations in Phase 5.

Key Findings

According to the report, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen remain at the ‘highest alert’ as hotspots. The six countries account for almost 1 million people facing catastrophic levels of hunger (IPC Phase 5 ‘Catastrophe’) with starvation and death a daily reality and where extreme levels of mortality and malnutrition may unfold without immediate action.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel, the Sudan and Syria remain ‘of very high concern’ with deteriorating conditions – as in the June edition of the quarterly report – but the alert is extended to the Central African Republic and Pakistan. Meanwhile, Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi have been added to the list of countries, joining Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Madagascar that remain hunger hotspots.

Violent conflict remains the primary driver of acute hunger with analysis indicating a continuation of this trend in 2022 with particular concern for Ethiopia, where an intensification of conflict and interethnic violence in several regions is expected to further escalate, driving up humanitarian needs.

Weather extremes such as floods, tropical storms and droughts remain critical drivers in many parts of the globe. A “new normal” of consecutive and extreme weather events is becoming clear – particularly in the hotspots. Devastating floods have affected 33 million people in Pakistan alone this year, and South Sudan faces a fourth consecutive year of extreme flooding. Meanwhile, a third consecutive season of below-average rainfall is projected in Syria. For the first time in 20 years, the La Niña climate event has continued through three consecutive years – affecting agriculture and causing crop and livestock losses in many parts of the world including Afghanistan, west and east Africa and Syria.

On the economic front, the persistently high global prices of food, fuel and fertilizer continue to drive high domestic prices and economic instability. Rising inflation rates have forced governments to enact monetary-tightening measures in advanced economies which have also increased the cost of credit of low-income countries. This is constraining the ability of heavily indebted countries – the number of countries increased significantly in recent years – to finance the import of essential items.

In the face of these macroeconomic challenges, many governments are compelled to introduce austerity measures affecting incomes and purchasing power – particularly among the most vulnerable families. These trends are expected to increase in coming months, the report notes, with poverty and acute food insecurity rising further as well as risks of civil unrest driven by increasing socio-economic grievances.

Humanitarian assistance is crucial to save lives and prevent starvation, death and the total collapse of livelihoods the report notes, highlighting that insecurity, administrative and bureaucratic impediments, movement restrictions and physical barriers severely limit humanitarian responders’ access to people facing acute hunger in 11 of the hotspot countries – including all six of the countries where populations are facing or are projected to face starvation (IPC Phase 5) or are at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions.

Humanitarian Action Is Critical to Preventing Starvation and Death

The report calls for targeted humanitarian action to save lives and livelihoods in the 19 hunger hotspots noting that in humanitarian action in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen will be critical in preventing further starvation and death.

Note to Editors

Photos from Hotspot Countries available here.

Identified through forward-looking analysis, the ‘hunger hotspots’ are areas showing the potential for acute food insecurity to increase during the outlook period. The hotspots are selected through a consensus-based process involving WFP and FAO field and technical teams, alongside analysts specialized in conflict, economic risks, and natural hazards. 

The report is part of a series of analytical products produced under the Global Network Against Food Crises, to enhance and coordinate the generation and sharing of evidence-based information and analysis for preventing and addressing food crises. 

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It aims at transforming agrifood systems, making them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no-one behind. FAO’s goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @FAOnews and @wfp_media

ISLAMABAD – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its emergency response to reach 1.9 million people affected by this year’s monsoon floods. Recovery and resilience support is now a top priority as families struggle to cope with the loss of homes, livestock and food, and the country grapples with colossal damage to infrastructure, agricultural land and crops.

Already, the U.N. World Food Programme has reached more than 400,000 people with food assistance in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces and continues to expand its operations in support of the government-led response across the country. A record 33 million people are affected by the floods, the deadliest in more than a decade.

“The people of Pakistan not only need immediate assistance but also longer-term support to restore their livelihoods shattered by the floods,” said Rathi Palakrishnan, officer-in-charge and deputy country director for U.N. World Food Programme Pakistan. “The U.N. World Food Programme stands with them – under the leadership of the government – to help them get through this calamity and build their resilience against future shocks. The world needs to wake up to the reality of the climate crisis.”

More than 630,000 people are still in relief camps, over 80% of them in Sindh alone. In Balochistan and Sindh, large areas of land remain inundated, and scores of communities are cut off – creating challenges for humanitarian agencies to deliver aid. There has also been an outbreak of waterborne diseases among the displaced families.

In addition to food distributions, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing specialized, nutritious food for 31,000 young children and 28,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women to prevent malnutrition and boost their immunity. The U.N. World Food Programme is also reinforcing the government’s logistical capacity to ensure no disruptions to humanitarian supply chains.

Once the initial relief response is concluded, the U.N. World Food Programme will immediately implement recovery programs to improve community infrastructure, create livelihoods opportunities and boost resilience, combined with cash-based transfers, through early 2023.

In Pakistan, the U.N. World Food Programme works closely with the government to strengthen livelihoods and help communities build their resilience to climatic shocks. This includes supporting income-generating activities, the creation of irrigation channels and dams in drought and flood-prone areas, and vocational training – all of which help both men and women diversify their livelihood sources. Community members receive food assistance while participating in the activities, and their communities benefit from improved infrastructure that boosts resilience and food security in the long-term.

The significant scale-up requires $152 million, up from the originally planned $34 million, as part of the flash appeal launched by the United Nations in August.

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As Pakistan gets pummeled by devastating flooding and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rainfall,  World Food Program USA is mobilizing to support the United Nations World Food Programme’s response to the escalating humanitarian disaster. Following the Government of Pakistan’s request for support, the U.N. World Food Programme is rapidly expanding its food assistance to 495,957 people in Balochistan and Sindh. The U.N. World Food Programme has already supported 40,189 flood-affected people in five targeted districts in Balochistan. Distributions have had to be put on hold due to strong rains and access constraints but will restart as soon as the situation allows.

On August 30, the United Nations will issue a $161 million flash appeal for Pakistan. As part of the appeal, the U.N. World Food Programme urgently needs $34 million in order to scale-up food and cash assistance to nearly 1 million people in the Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab districts and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Since mid-June, flooding and landslides have caused widespread destruction across the country, killing at least 937 people and injuring 1,343. Flooding has affected 33 million people so far with 66 districts declared a ‘calamity hit’ by the government. Over 3000 km of roads and over 100 bridges have been damaged or destroyed; nearly 800,000 livestock have died and 2 million acres of crops and farmland impacted. The humanitarian situation is expected to worsen as communities and infrastructure are increasingly unable to cope with ongoing heavy rainfall. According to Pakistan’s disaster agency, record rainfall has been between three to five times the 30-year nationwide average.

World Food Program USA stands by the people of Pakistan during their time of need. Help us rush urgently-needed food and lifesaving support to those facing crisis in countries like Pakistan.

NAIROBI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is expanding assistance in the Horn of Africa as levels of hunger soar after back-to-back droughts and the threat of famine looms. Since the start of the year, 9 million more people have slipped into severe hunger across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – leaving 22 million people struggling to find enough food to eat.

U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley on Thursday wrapped up a visit to drought-ravaged Somalia, where over 7 million people (close to half the population) are severely hungry and 213,000 are already facing famine-like conditions. Beasley visited the southern city of Baardheere and met families, including malnourished children and their mothers, who have been forced to leave their homes and travel long distances through conflict-wracked areas in search of humanitarian assistance.

“People here have been waiting years for rain – but they cannot wait any longer for lifesaving food assistance. The world needs to act now to protect the most vulnerable communities from the threat of widespread famine in the Horn of Africa,” said Beasley. “There is still no end in sight to this drought crisis, so we must get the resources needed to save lives and stop people plunging into catastrophic levels of hunger and starvation.”

The U.N. World Food Programme is tripling the number of people reached with lifesaving food assistance in the Baardheere area, which hosts tens of thousands of people driven from their homes by drought and conflict.

Across the Horn of Africa, the drought is expected to continue in coming months with a fifth poor rainy season forecast later this year. The U.N. World Food Programme has focused available funds, including critical emergency funding from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, on scaling up lifesaving assistance in areas worst hit by the drought. The U.N. World Food Programme is targeting 8.5 million people across the Horn of Africa, up from 6.3 million at the start of the year.

Across the three drought-affected countries, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing food and cash assistance to families and distributing fortified foods to women and young children to treat spiraling rates of malnutrition and prevent more people among some of the most vulnerable communities slipping closer towards famine. U.N. World Food Programme cash grants and insurance schemes are also helping families to buy food to keep livestock alive or to compensate them when their animals die.

At the start of the year, the U.N. World Food Programme warned that 13 million people in the Horn of Africa were facing severe hunger due to the drought. By mid-year, with the fourth consecutive failure of rains, that number increased to 20 million. Now, the number is projected to rise again to at least 22 million by September. This number will continue to climb, and the severity of hunger will deepen if the next rainy season (October to December) fails and the most people do not receive humanitarian relief. Needs will remain high into 2023 and famine is now a serious risk, particularly in Somalia.

Across the Horn of Africa, livestock are dying and there are acute shortages of water and food. So far 1.1 million people have been forced from their homes by the drought, ending up in crowded camps where the humanitarian community is struggling to keep pace with the demand for food, shelter, and healthcare.

During the 2016/17 drought in the Horn of Africa, catastrophe was avoided through early action. Humanitarian assistance was scaled up before there was widespread hunger, saving lives and averting a devastating famine. The U.N. World Food Programme is doing everything possible to support those most in need, but with no end in sight to this drought, some $418 million is urgently needed over the next six months to meet these increasing needs.

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In Ethiopia, the U.N. World Food Programme aims to provide food and cash relief assistance to 3.3 million people in the drought-hit Somali Region (59% of the population) but is currently only able to reach 2.4 million due to funding shortages. The U.N. World Food Programme’s malnutrition treatment programs are targeting almost 850,000 women and children in drought-affected areas. The U.N. World Food Programme’s first humanitarian shipment of grain from Ukraine is on route to Ethiopia, where it will go towards feeding 1.53 million people for a month.

In Kenya, the U.N. World Food Programme is rapidly scaling up to reach 535,000 drought-affected people by the end of August – up from 108,000 reached in the first half of 2022. The U.N. World Food Programme is also expanding its malnutrition treatment programs to reach 210,000 malnourished children and 105,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in 15 drought-affected counties – up from 8 counties.

In Somalia, the U.N. World Food Programme is continuing to scale up emergency food support to reach 4.5 million people in the coming months. In July, the U.N. World Food Programme reached a record 3.7 million people with lifesaving food assistance, the highest ever reached in a single month, and a significant increase from 1.7 million people supported in April. The U.N. World Food Programme has also nearly doubled targets for its malnutrition treatment program, aiming to provide 444,000 young children and mothers with nutrition support.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

 

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JUBA – Almost one-third of the severely hungry South Sudanese the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) planned to support this year will be left without humanitarian food assistance due to critical funding shortages, heightening the risk of starvation for 1.7 million people.

The suspension of aid comes at the worst possible time for the people of South Sudan as the country faces a year of unprecedented hunger. Over 60% of the population are grappling with severe hunger during the lean season, fueled by continuing conflict, severe flooding, localized drought and soaring food prices exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine.

“We are extremely concerned about the impact of the funding cuts on children, women and men who will not have enough to eat during the lean season. These families have completely exhausted their coping strategies. They need immediate humanitarian assistance to put food on the table in the short-term and to rebuild their livelihoods and resilience to cope with future shocks,” said Adeyinka Badejo, acting country director of the U.N. World Food Programme in South Sudan.

“Humanitarian needs are far exceeding the funding we have received this year. If this continues, we will face bigger and more costly problems in the future, including increased mortality, malnutrition, stunting and disease,” said Badejo.

The U.N. World Food Programme had exhausted all options before suspending food assistance, including halving rations in 2021 – leaving families in need with less food to eat. These latest reductions to assistance will also impact 178,000 schoolchildren who will no longer receive daily school meals – a crucial safety net that helps keep South Sudanese children in school to learn and grow.

More drastic reductions will be unavoidable, unless more funding is received, which will leave vulnerable people unable to meet their basic food needs and reverting to survival strategies such as skipping or reducing meals, selling assets, using child labor and child marriage.

The U.N. World Food Programme’s crisis response and resilience-building development programs are drastically underfunded this year. The U.N. World Food Programme requires $426 million dollars to reach 6 million food insecure people through 2022.

Notes for Editors: Food Security Situation in South Sudan

In 2022, food insecurity in South Sudan is alarmingly high. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment warned that 7.74 million people will face severe acute hunger at the height of the lean season between June and August, while 1.4 million children will be acutely malnourished.

The U.N. World Food Programme is prioritizing its limited food assistance to reach 4.5 million people struggling with severe hunger across 52 counties in South Sudan, including 87,000 people in eight counties already experiencing catastrophic hunger and living in famine-like conditions.

A U.N. World Food Programme food ration includes cereals, beans, vegetable oil and salt.

This year, the U.N. World Food Programme plans to reach 6 million food-insecure people in South Sudan with food assistance, nutrition support, cash stipends and livelihoods opportunities to build the resilience of communities – prioritizing the most vulnerable and conflict-affected women, children and the elderly.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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Conflict, weather extremes, economic shocks, the lingering impacts of COVID-19 and the ripple effects from the war in Ukraine push millions of people in countries across the world into poverty and hunger as food and fuel price spikes drive nations closer to instability, says new hunger hotspots report.

ROME – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today issued a stark warning of multiple, looming food crises, driven by conflict, climate shocks, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and massive public debt burdens – exacerbated by the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine which has pushed food and fuel prices to accelerate in many nations across the globe. These shocks hit in contexts already characterized by rural marginalization and fragile agrifood systems.

The Hunger Hotspots – FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity report issued today calls for urgent humanitarian action in 20 “hunger hotspots” where acute hunger is expected to worsen from June – September 2022.

The report warns that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the already steadily rising food and energy prices worldwide. The effects are expected to be particularly acute where economic instability and spiraling prices combine with drops in food production due to climate shocks, such as recurrent droughts or flooding.

“We are deeply concerned about the combined impacts of overlapping crises jeopardizing people’s ability to produce and access foods, pushing millions more into extreme levels of acute food insecurity,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “We are in a race against time to help farmers in the most affected countries, including by rapidly increasing potential food production and boosting their resilience in the face of challenges.”

“We’re facing a perfect storm that is not just going to hurt the poorest of the poor. It’s also going to overwhelm millions of families who, until now, have just about kept their heads above water,” warned U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley.

“Conditions now are much worse than during the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2007-2008 food price crisis, when 48 countries were rocked by political unrest, riots and protests. We’ve already seen what’s happening in Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru and Sri Lanka – that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have solutions. But we need to act, and act fast,” he warned.

Key findings

The report finds that – alongside conflict – frequent and recurring climate shocks continue to drive acute hunger and shows that we have entered a ‘new normal’ where droughts, flooding, hurricanes, and cyclones repeatedly decimate farming and livestock rearing, drive population displacement and push millions to the brink in countries across the world.

The report warns that worrisome climatic trends linked to La Niña since late 2020 are expected to continue through 2022, driving up humanitarian needs and acute hunger. An unprecedented drought in East Africa affecting Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya is leading to a fourth consecutive below-average rainfall season, while South Sudan will face its fourth consecutive year of large-scale flooding – which will likely continue to drive people from their homes and devastate crops and livestock production. The report also expects above-average rains and a risk of localized flooding in the Sahel, a more intense hurricane season in the Caribbean, and below-average rains in Afghanistan – which is already reeling from multiple seasons of drought, violence and political upheaval.

The report also emphasises the urgency of the dire macroeconomic conditions in several countries – brought on by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by the recent upheaval in global food and energy markets. These conditions are causing dramatic income losses among the poorest communities and are straining the capacity of national governments to fund social safety nets, income-supporting measure, and the import of essential goods.

According to the report, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen remain at ‘highest alert’ as hotspots with catastrophic conditions. Afghanistan and Somalia are new entries to this worrisome category since the last hotspots report released January 2022. These six countries all have parts of the population facing IPC Phase 5 ‘Catastrophe’ or at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions, with up to 750,000 people facing starvation and death. 400,000 of these are in Ethiopia’s Tigray region – the highest number on record in one country since the famine in Somalia in 2011.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, the Sahel, the Sudan and Syria remain ‘of very high concern’ with deteriorating critical conditions, as in the previous edition of this report – with Kenya a new entry to the list. Sri Lanka, West African coastal countries (Benin, Cabo Verde and Guinea), Ukraine and Zimbabwe have been added to the list of hotspots countries, joining Angola, Lebanon, Madagascar and Mozambique which continue to be hunger hotspots – according to the report.

Scaling up anticipatory action to prevent disasters

The report provides concrete, country-specific recommendations on priorities for immediate humanitarian response to save lives, prevent famine and protect livelihoods, as well as anticipatory action. The recent G7 commitment highlighted the importance of strengthening anticipatory action in humanitarian and development assistance – ensuring predictable hazards don’t become full-blown humanitarian disasters.

FAO and WFP have partnered to ramp up the scale and reach of anticipatory action, to protect communities’ lives, food security and livelihoods before they need lifesaving assistance in the critical window between an early warning and a shock. Flexible humanitarian funding enables FAO and the U.N. World Food Programme to anticipate humanitarian needs and save lives. Evidence shows that for every $1 invested in anticipatory action to safeguard lives and livelihoods, up to $7 can be saved by avoiding losses for disaster-affected communities.

 

Note to editors

Photos available via this link.

About the report

Identified through forward-looking analysis, the ‘hunger hotspots’ have the potential for acute food insecurity to increase during the outlook period. The hotspots are selected through a consensus-based process involving the U.N. World Food Programme and FAO field and technical teams, alongside analysts specialized in conflict, economic risks and natural hazards.

The report provides country-specific recommendations on priorities for anticipatory action – short-term protective interventions to be implemented before new humanitarian needs materialize and emergency response – actions to address existing humanitarian needs. The report is part of a series of analytical products produced under the Global Network Against Food Crises, to enhance and coordinate the generation and sharing of evidence-based information and analysis for preventing and addressing food crises.

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About FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It aims at transforming agri-food systems, making them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable for better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life, leaving no-one behind. FAO’s goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 Members, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.

About WFP

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

About the Global Network Against Food Crises

Founded by the European Union, FAO and the U.N. World Food Programme in 2016, the Global Network Against Food Crises is an alliance of humanitarian and development actors working together to prevent, prepare for and respond to food crises and support the Sustainable Development Goal to End Hunger (SDG 2).

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA@wfp_media, @FAOnews, @FAOemergencies and @fightfoodcrises

Hunger and malnutrition worsen across Somalia as risk of famine increases amid historic fourth failed rainy season.

Mogadishu – A historic fourth consecutive failed rainy season, skyrocketing prices and an underfunded humanitarian response have resulted in a 160% increase in people facing catastrophic levels of hunger, starvation and disease in Somalia. With no end in sight for the devastating drought affecting the country, the risk of famine looms larger than ever. An urgent increase in support from the international community is essential to avert famine.

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A new report from the Famine Early Warning Network and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), based on a rapid assessment by multiple United Nations agencies, shows that 7.1 million Somalis (close to 50% of the population) now face crisis-level hunger or worse through at least September 2022. Of those, 213,000 people face catastrophic hunger and starvation, a drastic increase from the 81,000 forecast in April. More areas are at risk of famine, particularly in the south of the country in regions where insecurity and conflict make humanitarian access more challenging.

These figures reflect a food security situation that is expected to deteriorate rapidly over the coming months. United Nations agencies and partners are now focusing their limited resources on famine prevention to protect the country’s most at risk, as meteorological organizations warn that another below-average rainy season could follow later in the year.

“We are staring at a potential calamity; failure to act now will be tragic for scores of families in Somalia,” said Adam Abdelmoula, deputy special representative of the secretary-general, resident and humanitarian coordinator. “Somalia is in danger of entering an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season, meaning hundreds of thousands of people face the risk of famine. Famine cost the lives of 260,000 Somalis in 2010 – 2011.This cannot be allowed to happen again in 2022. It is urgent that more is done to avert this risk and done now,” he said.

Collectively, humanitarian agencies have reached 2.8 million people between January and April 2022 with lifesaving and livelihood assistance through drought assistance and famine prevention programs, but the new assessment clearly indicates that the scale of assistance currently being delivered and funding from the international community is not yet sufficient to protect those most at risk.

Food prices affecting the most vulnerable

Somali families are increasingly unable to cope with soaring food prices as local food has become scarce due to consecutive seasons of poor or failed domestic production, livestock deaths and imported food prices reaching record levels – in part because of supply chain disruptions due to conflict in Ukraine. In parts of the country, food prices have risen 140 – 160%, leaving poor families hungry and destitute.

“We must act immediately to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. The lives of the most vulnerable are already at risk from malnutrition and hunger, and we cannot wait for a declaration of famine to act,” said El-Khidir Daloum, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)’s country director in Somalia. “It’s a race against time to prevent famine and the U.N. World Food Programme is scaling up as much as possible, prioritizing our limited resources to save those most at risk. But as these new figures show, there is an urgent need for more resources to meet this escalating hunger crisis,” he said.

Around 3 million livestock have died due to the drought since mid-2021, and the decline in meat and milk production has also led to worsening malnutrition, particularly among young children in pastoral areas who are dependent on local supply. As of May 2022, an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of 5 face acute malnutrition through the end of the year, including 386,400 who are likely to be severely malnourished – an increase of 55,000 compared to previous estimates.

The malnutrition crisis is likely to worsen as the nutrition situation deteriorates further in the affected areas, with children and vulnerable people the hardest hit. “This is a child crisis. It’s not only about water or nutrition, but also about children losing education, falling vulnerable to child protection issues and having poor health; all impacting their future,” said Angela Kearney, UNICEF Somalia Representative. UNICEF has supported the treatment of more than 114,000 children with severe acute malnutrition between January and April 2022. “We are treating children but now we need further funding to prevent a famine and protect the future of every Somali child,” she said.

Grim situation as humanitarian funding falls far short

The grim food security situation is unfolding as humanitarian funding from the international community has so far fallen short of coming close to what actors need to avert a famine in the country. The 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is currently only 18% funded. “The support required has not yet fully materialized, and hundreds of thousands of Somalis are at a very real risk of starvation and death,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO’s representative in Somalia.

“It’s a tragedy to see the level of distress that rural communities in particular are experiencing, and we are being limited in what we can do to prevent this extraordinary suffering. We’re calling on the international community to act fast while we still have some hope of preventing collapse of livelihoods, potentially massive population displacement from rural areas to IDP camps and widespread famine in Somalia,” he said.

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We asked Congress to pass a bill that would provide $5 billion in food relief.

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Photo: WFP/Arete/Ed Ram

Conflict & Hunger

We sent letters showing the connection between conflict and hunger, and reminded Congress to continue support for WFP.

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School Meals

We asked Congress to continue support for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, which helps fund school meals globally.

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Climate Change

We urged members of Congress to take legislative action towards reducing climate change, which is responsible for increased hunger globally.

NAIROBI – Almost a month into the current rainy season, desperately needed rains across the Horn of Africa have so far failed to materialize. If these conditions continue, the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

With Somalia facing the risk of famine, half a million Kenyans one step away from catastrophic levels of hunger and malnutrition rates in Ethiopia well above emergency thresholds, time is fast running out for families who are struggling to survive.

“We know from past experience that acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is vital, yet our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” said Michael Dunford, U.N. World Food Programme’s regional director for Eastern Africa. “The U.N. World Food Programme and other humanitarian agencies have been warning the international community since last year that this drought could be disastrous if we didn’t act immediately, but funding has failed to materialize at the scale required.”

The situation has been compounded by the fallout of conflict in Ukraine, with the cost of food and fuel soaring to unprecedented highs. Drought-affected countries across the Horn of Africa are likely to be the hardest hit by impacts of the conflict – the cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66%) and Somalia (36%) which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries. The disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January 2022.

During the 2016/17 drought in the Horn of Africa, catastrophe was avoided through early action. Humanitarian assistance was scaled up before there was widespread hunger. In 2022, due to a severe lack of resourcing, there are growing fears that it won’t be possible to prevent the looming disaster – and millions will suffer as a result.

The U.N. World Food Programme last appealed for desperately needed funding in February, yet less than 4% of what was needed was raised. Over the next six months, the U.N. World Food Programme needs $473 million to scale-up assistance and save lives across the three countries – Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

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In Ethiopia crops have failed, over a million livestock have died and an estimated 7.2 million people wake up hungry every day in southern and southeastern Ethiopia as the country grapples with the most severe drought since 1981. The U.N. World Food Programme is on the ground, aiming to support 3.5 million people with emergency food and nutrition assistance, school feeding programs as well as climate change adaptation and resilience building activities. Immediate and scaled-up assistance is critical to avoid a major humanitarian crisis in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks. The U.N. World Food Programme urgently requires $239 million over the next six months to respond to the drought in southern Ethiopia.

In Kenya, the number of people in need of assistance has risen more than fourfold in less than two years. According to the Short Rains Assessment, the rapidly escalating drought has left 3.1 million people acutely hungry (IPC3 and above), including half a million Kenyans who are facing emergency levels of hunger (IPC4). The U.N. World Food Programme urgently requires $42 million over the next six months to meet the needs of the most critically affected communities in northern and eastern parts of the country.

In Somalia, some 6 million people (40% of the population) are facing acute hunger (IPC3 or above) and, alarmingly, there is a very real risk of famine in the coming months if the rains don’t arrive and humanitarian assistance isn’t received. The U.N. World Food Programme is scaling up emergency food and nutrition assistance to support 3 million people by the middle of this year. However, a $192 million relief funding gap over the next six months means that the U.N. World Food Programme has less than half of what it needs to keep scaling up. As a result, the U.N. World Food Programme is having to prioritize both nutrition (where treatment has taken precedence over prevention) and food assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme has launched its largest anticipatory action intervention so far in Africa, equipping vulnerable Somali households in drought hotspots with additional cash transfers and a public information campaign to help them withstand the impact of a potential fourth failed rainy season. The U.N. World Food Programme is also continuing livelihoods, resilience and food systems programs to protect recent development gains and support vulnerable Somalis against droughts and other crises in the long term.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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