In Somalia, “hundreds of thousands are already facing famine today and a staggering level of malnutrition is expected among children under the age of five,” warned the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP).
‘Large-scale deaths from hunger’ are increasingly likely in the East African nation, UN agencies went further, noting that unless “adequate” aid arrives, analysts expect “as many as four children or two adults per 10,000 people will die every day” by December.
In addition to the emergency already unfolding in Somalia, UN agencies have signaled 18 deeper issues regarding “hunger hotspots”, the problems of which have been caused by conflict, drought, economic uncertainty, the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Humanitarians are particularly concerned about Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, where a record 970,000 people are expected to “suffer from catastrophic hunger and go hungry or expected to starve or risk worsening to catastrophic.” circumstances if no action is taken. the UN agencies said.
This is ten times more than six years ago, when only two countries had populations so badly food insecure, FAO and WFP noted, in a new report.
Urgent humanitarian action is needed and on a large scale in all these high-risk countries “to save lives and livelihoods” and prevent famine, the UN agencies urged.
Hard winter harvest
According to FAO and WFP, acute food insecurity around the world will worsen from October to January.
In addition to Somalia, they stressed that the problem was also acute in the wider Horn of Africa, where the longest drought in more than 40 years is expected to continue. push people to the brink of starvation”.
Successive failed rains have destroyed people’s crops and killed their livestock “on which their survival depends,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, warning that “people in the poorest countries” were most at risk from acute food security that was “rising rapidly.” “. and spread all over the world”.
FAO’s QU calls for massive aid scaling
Vulnerable communities “have yet to recover from impact of COVID-19 pandemic, suffering ripple effects of ongoing conflictin terms of prices, food and fertilizer supplies, as well as the climate emergency,” the FAO chief continued.
He insisted that “without a massively scaled-up humanitarian response” to sustain agriculture, “the situation is likely to worsen in many countries in the coming months.”
Heeding that message, WFP Director David Beasley called for immediate action to prevent people from dying.
“We urgently need help for those at serious risk of starvation in Somalia and the world’s other hunger hotspots,” he said.
Perfect storm of trouble
“This is the third time in 10 years that Somalia has been threatened with devastating famine,” continued Mr. Beasley.
“The famine in 2011 was caused by two consecutive failed rainy seasons and conflict. Today we are staring at a perfect storm: a likely fifth consecutive failed rainy season in which the drought will continue well into 2023.”
In addition to rising food prices, those most at risk from acute food insecurity also have “severely limited opportunities” to earn a living because of the pandemic, the WFP chief explained, as relief teams prepare for famine in Somalia’s Baidoa and Burhakaba districts. in the region of the bay, come in October.
Among the “highest alert” countries – identified as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – the joint FAO-WFP report states that the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel, Sudan and Syria “very worrying”alongside newcomers the Central African Republic and Pakistan.
Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi have also been added to the list of countries with hunger hotspots, along with Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Barriers to Help
Humanitarian aid is critical to save lives and prevent hunger, death and the total collapse of livelihoods, the FAO and WFP emphasize, while in 11 of 19 they highlight the chronic access problems caused by “insecurity, administrative and bureaucratic barriers, movement restrictions and physical barriers”. hotspot countries.
This includes “all six countries where populations face or are expected to starve … or risk deteriorating toward catastrophic conditions,” they said.