Anticipating rising food insecurity: Hunger Hotspots report
In 2021, hunger is on the rise across the world with some communities facing the risk of famine.
Increasingly available evidence is confirming that there is an overall rising trend in acute hunger, driven by a combination of drivers such as climate shocks and conflict, the effects of which have been further aggravated by new large-scale shocks in 2020.
Mid last year, while there was still a lot of uncertainty, it was clear from emerging evidence that the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were exacerbating vulnerabilities and making existing food crises worse.
The latest data shows that around 174 million women, men and children across 58 countries are facing acute levels of food insecurity. In 2019, this number was 135 million. Of these, 34 million people are experiencing emergency levels of acute hunger, which means they require urgent and immediate life- and livelihood-saving assistance.
Such a situation of critical vulnerability underscores as never before the need to carefully monitor risks and reinforce or put in place early warning systems in high risk countries to ensure that we can foresee and anticipate any further shocks which can push people over the brink into destitution and starvation.
The sheer scale of the challenges ahead require that agencies join forces in all aspects of assistance, from analysis to implementation and monitoring.
One such joint venture is the FAO-WFP Hunger Hotspots report, initiated in mid 2020 as part of efforts to shed further light on the emerging food security implications of the pandemic. Hunger Hotspots is a forward-looking early warning analysis of countries and situations, called hotspots, where acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate over the coming months. The hotspots are identified through a consensus-based analysis of key drivers of food insecurity, and their likely combination and evolution across countries and regions.
The March edition flags 20 countries and situations where there is a likelihood of further deterioration in acute food insecurity, due to multiple drivers of hunger that are interlinked or mutually reinforcing such as conflict, economic shocks, the socio-economic impacts of COVID19, weather extremes and the diffusion of plant pests and animal diseases.
The report also flags certain particularly critical situations, such as Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria where there are specific areas and parts of the population who are at risk of famine. In South Sudan’s Jonglei state and certain areas in Yemen – people are already facing famine-like conditions. This is due to conditions of extreme vulnerability combined with considerable constraints to humanitarian access – critical in situations where parts of the population rely on humanitarian assistance for survival.
Other hotspots – such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria, the Sudan, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen and Zimbabwe – are particularly concerning due to the scale, severity and trends of the existing food crises.
The Hunger Hotspots report strongly advocates for taking an anticipatory approach to further deterioration across the situations flagged. For each hotspot, the report provides context-specific recommendations on priorities for emergency response to address existing needs, as well as anticipatory action to ensure short-term protective interventions ahead of predictable shocks before new needs materialize. These actions are strongly recommended to save lives, protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations and prevent further human suffering.
It is clear that given current hunger trends, the existing humanitarian financing and programming capacity isn’t sufficient to meet these exponentially growing needs. Investments must be made in better and more dynamic risk monitoring, better preparedness, flexible and adaptive programming and financing – mechanisms which can allow us to curb rising needs. In this perspective, the Hunger Hotspots offers an important statement on the most concerning acute hunger situations globally and their likely evolution, as well as on the importance of anticipating foreseen shocks.
The next edition will be published in July 2021.
Written by Dunja Dujanovic, Early Warning Early Action Team Leader, FAO