A recent report published by the United nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has raised alarm over the deteriorating conditions of hunger in several countries. The report highlights that the situation is set to worsen in the coming days, posing a serious threat to the lives of millions of people.
According to the report, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen remain at the highest alert level for acute hunger. In addition, Sudan, Haiti, Burkina Faso, and Mali have been elevated to this level due to movement restrictions that are affecting the availability of food and essential goods for the population.
The report also identifies the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Syria, and Myanmar as hotspots with a very high level of concern. These countries are facing critical acute food insecurity, and the report predicts that the situation will further intensify in the coming months due to worsening factors.
Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, expressed her concerns about the severity of the hunger crisis, stating, "Not only are more people in more places around the world going hungry, but the severity of the hunger they face is worse than ever."
The report specifically highlights the dire situation in Afghanistan, where 15.8 million people are facing severe food insecurity in 2023, with 2.8 million in urgent need of emergency assistance. Similarly, in Myanmar, approximately 15.2 million people, or 28 per cent of the population, are estimated to be acutely food insecure, which represents a sharp increase compared to the previous year. The report also states that 2.2 million children and women in Myanmar require nutrition assistance in 2023, a 10 per cent rise compared to 2022.
Pakistan is facing additional challenges due to devastating floods that occurred between July and September 2022. The floods caused significant damage and economic losses to the agriculture sector, estimated at USD 30 billion. As a result, over 8.5 million people, accounting for 43 per cent of the analysed population, are likely to experience high levels of acute food insecurity.
Furthermore, the report warns that economic and political crises are reducing households' purchasing power and ability to afford food and essential goods, exacerbating the already critical situation. If the economic and political crises further worsen (which is happening in the Country), Pakistan will have to face more trouble. Pakistan already has substantial external debt, amounting to USD 77.5 billion, and needs to be repaid between April 2023 and June 2026.
The UN report underscores the urgent need for international attention and support to address the escalating hunger crisis in these countries. Immediate action is required to ensure the provision of food and livelihood assistance, as well as the implementation of measures to alleviate the underlying factors contributing to the worsening conditions.
Failure to address these issues will lead to a further deterioration of acute food insecurity and pose a significant threat to the lives and well-being of millions of vulnerable individuals and communities.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations have emphasized the critical situation in hotspots where communities are facing or are projected to face starvation. These regions are at the highest level of alert due to emergency levels of food insecurity and severe aggravating factors. Immediate attention is needed to prevent these areas from sliding towards catastrophic conditions.
The recent conflict in Sudan has already resulted in mass displacement and hunger. It is estimated that over one million citizens and refugees have left or are fleeing the country, while an additional 2.5 million people within Sudan's borders are expected to face acute hunger in the coming months.
The report warns of a potential spill-over effect, raising the risk of negative impacts in neighbouring countries. If the conflict persists, further displacement and disruptions to trade and humanitarian aid flows could occur.
Furthermore, the El Niño phenomenon, characterized by warming ocean surface temperatures in the central and east Pacific, is raising concerns about climate extremes in vulnerable nations. The combination of conflict, displacement, and climate-related challenges exacerbates the already dire food security situation.
The report urgently calls for humanitarian action to save lives, protect livelihoods, and prevent starvation and death. Dongyu Qu, the Director-General of the FAO, emphasized that maintaining the status quo is no longer an option in today's risk landscape. He stressed the need for immediate interventions in the agricultural sector to address immediate hunger, rebuild lives, and tackle the root causes of food insecurity.
Adding to the crisis are several other factors, including the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine. These events have further complicated the already challenging circumstances, pushing vulnerable regions closer to the brink of hunger.
Additionally, the global economy is expected to slow down in 2023, with advanced economies implementing monetary tightening measures that increase the cost of credit. The economic slowdown and reduced international aid have put multilateral international organizations in a difficult position, facing shortages of funds for aid work. This further hampers their ability to respond effectively to the escalating crisis.
Given the gravity of the situation, urgent and coordinated efforts are required from the international community to address the immediate needs of these hotspots and implement long-term solutions to combat food insecurity. Failure to act swiftly and decisively could have devastating consequences for the lives and well-being of millions of people in these vulnerable regions.
Surinder Singh Oberoi is a regulator contributor to Greater Kashmir