Two U.N. food agencies have issued stark warnings about multiple, looming food crises on the planet, driven by climate “shocks” like drought and worsened by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine that have sent fuel and food prices soaring.
The glum assessment came in a report by two Rome-based food agencies: the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
WFP Executive Director David Beasley said besides hurting “the poorest of the poor’’ the global food crises threaten to overwhelm millions of families who are just getting by.
“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,” Beasley said in a statement. He cited as “just the tip of the iceberg’” food crises now in Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru and Sri Lanka.
The report calls for urgent humanitarian action to help “hunger hotspots” where acute hunger is expected to worsen over the next few months.
The U.N. agencies are also warning that war in Ukraine has exacerbated 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,” the joint statement from the U.N. agencies said.
Among critical areas cited is East Africa, where the United Nations said an “unprecedented” drought is afflicting Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. South Sudan, meanwhile, faces a fourth straight year of large-scale flooding.
The report tagged six nations as “highest alert” hot spots facing catastrophic conditions: Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. It said as many as 750,000 people are facing starvation and death in those countries. Of those, 400,000 are in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, the highest number on record in any one country since the 2011 famine in Somalia, the U.N. agencies said.
The U.N. food agencies report said Congo, Haiti, the Sahel region, Sudan and Syria remain “of very high concern” and noted that Kenya was a new entry to that list.
Joining the list of hot spot countries were Sri Lanka, Benin, Cape Verde, Guinea, Ukraine and Zimbabwe, while areas that faced continuing food scarcities included Angola, Lebanon, Madagascar and Mozambique.