The United Nations has warned that acute hunger is expected to soar in over 20 countries in the next few months, and that millions of people could fall into starvation as a result.
A new report on global hunger hotspots published by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has found that an estimated 34 million people are struggling with emergency levels of acute hunger around the world.
The report revealed that this severe level of hunger means that these people are just “one step away from starvation.”
Africa is home to most of the hunger hotspots identified in the report, while others are reported to be in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The agencies found that Northern Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan are the most at risk of facing “catastrophic” levels of acute hunger.
The report points to five culprits that are responsible for the increase in hunger in these parts of the world: conflict and violence, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate shocks, desert locust outbreaks, and limited access to countries in need.
“The magnitude of suffering is alarming,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. “It is incumbent upon all of us to act now and to act fast to save lives, safeguard livelihoods and prevent the worst situation.”
"In many regions, the planting season has just started or is about to start. We must run against the clock and not let this opportunity to protect, stabilize and even possibly increase local food production slip away," he added.
The WFP’s executive director, David Beasley, explained that millions of families are in danger of starvation if immediate action is not taken and essential funding is not increased.
“We are seeing a catastrophe unfold before our very eyes,” he said. “Famine — driven by conflict, and fuelled by climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic — is knocking on the door for millions of families.”
"We urgently need three things to stop millions from dying of starvation: the fighting has to stop, we must be allowed access to vulnerable communities to provide life-saving help, and above all we need donors to step up with the $5.5 billion we are asking for this year," he added, referring to a call made by both agencies earlier this month for increased funding to avoid famine.
According to the report, more than 16 million people in Yemen are expected to experience high levels of acute food insecurity by June, an increase of 3 million since the end of last year. In South Sudan, over 7 million people are projected to fall into crisis levels of acute food insecurity between April and July. Other countries facing increased hunger levels in the short term include Burkina Faso, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Sudan, and Syria.
The report goes on to recommend critical short-term actions that can be taken in each hunger hotspot to address existing and future needs.
These include scaling up food and nutrition assistance, distributing drought-tolerant seeds, treating and vaccinating livestock to rolling out cash-for-work schemes, rehabilitating water-harvesting structures, and increasing income opportunities for vulnerable communities.
Bringing the hunger crisis to an end is part of Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World campaign. The pandemic has pushed millions of people into severe hunger conditions and without urgent action, these conditions could only get worse. Take action with us here to help to defeat COVID-19 and end global hunger.