We really need to focus on food security

Despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people in the world were severely food insecure in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released in Brussels on March 31st

The Food Security Information Network (FSIN), a global collaboration between the EU and USAID, regional food security institutions and UN agencies, says the figure is up 35% compared to 2015, when almost 80 million were affected by acute food insecurity.

This dramatic increase is mainly due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions caused by El Niño, which prevent people from accessing or producing food.

“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever greater instability and insecurity,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

The report offers a detailed analysis for countries facing acute food insecurity conditions and is based on the so-called IPC/CH classification, which comprises five phases from minimal food insecurity to famine. It also listed 18 countries and projected the prevailing Food Security crisis Phase 3 or above in these countries.

Yemen tops the list with 14.1 million people, which is about 50% of the country’s population, facing severe food insecurity. Ethiopia and Afghanistan came in second and third with 9.7 million and 8.5 million people facing food insecurity respectively. Notably, Yemen, North Nigeria, along with Northeast Nigeria; South Sudan and Somalia has been categorized under the ‘Countries at risk of famine’ header.

In the absence of immediate and substantive action not only to save people’s lives, but also to pull them back from the brink of famine, the food security situation in these countries will continue to worsen in coming months,” the report says.

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said: “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”

Stephen O’Brien, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said humanitarian operations in these four countries require more than $5.6 billion this year. Underscoring the urgency, he added, “we need this funding now – especially for the priority sectors to respond and prevent famine in the four critical sectors of food security, nutrition, water and sanitation, and health.”

While humanitarians continue to deliver and scale-up where they are able, Mr. O’Brien listed four requirements to effectively reverse these crises: more political will to end the conflicts that have caused these crises; unhindered and sustained humanitarian access to assist those in need; further funding to back a robust humanitarian response; and a more comprehensive approach.

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