The number of people facing hunger rose to 193 million last year as conflicts, climate change and economic crises devastated people’s livelihoods, the Foods and the Organization for Agriculture said Wednesday.
While experts have warned that Russia’s war in Ukraine could cause famine, FAO said in an annual report that nearly 40 million more people were pushed into “acute food insecurity” in 2021.
Among the 53 countries facing the problem, the hardest hit include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan, where millions of people face hunger after the country plunged into financial crisis following the takeover of the Taliban in 2021.
The United Nations defines “acute food insecurity” when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their life or livelihood in immediate danger.
“This is hunger that threatens to slip into famine and cause widespread death,” FAO said.
The number has grown steadily since the first report was published by FAO, the World Food Program and the European Union in 2016.
The increase in 2021 was “driven by a triple toxic combination of conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks,” with people affected in 53 countries, FAO said.
Although the report does not take into account the conflict in Ukraine, FAO said the war “has the most devastating impacts on countries in food crisis and on those on the verge of famine.”
Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of essential agricultural products, ranging from wheat and sunflower oil to fertilizers, and FAO previously said the conflict drove world food prices to all-time highs in March.
“The war has already exposed the interconnected nature and fragility of global food systems,” FAO said.
– ‘Not good’ prospects –
The agency noted that several countries battling severe food crises obtained nearly all grain imports from Russia and Ukraine last year, including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar.
FAO warned that “the prospects for moving forward are not good”.
“Today, if more is not done to support rural communities, the magnitude of the devastation in terms of hunger and loss of livelihoods will be appalling,” the report said.
“Urgent large-scale humanitarian action is needed to prevent this from happening,” he said.
In 2021, conflict and insecurity were the main driver of acute hunger in 24 countries, affecting 139 million people.
The economic “shocks”, aggravated by the impact of Covid, have affected 30.2 million people in 21 countries.
Extreme weather has been the main factor of acute food insecurity for 23.5 million people in eight African countries.
FAO said it needed $ 1.5 billion to stabilize and increase local food production in at-risk regions where the planting season is starting.
“There is no time to waste,” he said as he met on the matter Wednesday.