Food Insecurity: WFP and FAO

On Thursday, January 27, the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued an urgent call for humanitarian action in 2022, reporting that food insecurity was soaring across 20 hunger “hotspots.” The agencies warned that millions of people are at high risk of falling into crisis-level food insecurity. According to the Hunger Hotspots Report from the WFP and FAO, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen remain the countries of highest concern, with all four countries containing areas of people experiencing or projected to experience starvation and death at the highest level of urgency. 


Hunger levels in 2022 are projected to be the worst they have ever been in recent years. The UN predicts that over 10.5 million people in the world will face a crisis level of food insecurity or worse—a 20 percent increase compared to last year. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs has further reported that one of the main causes of this spike in hunger levels is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of people at risk of famine globally increasing by 60 percent compared to pre-COVID levels.


COVID-19 is not the only driver behind rising food insecurity. Above all, climate change and conflict have been cited as the most important contributors to acute food insecurity. Across the 20 hunger hotspots identified in Thursday’s report, conflict, political instability, and natural hazards were identified as placing millions of lives at risk. Countries undergoing severe political instability and conflict are exhibiting especially alarming hunger situations. In Ethiopia’s turbulent Tigray region, September 2021 estimates indicated more than 400,000 people were experiencing famine-like conditions. Presumably due to ongoing conflict, data in this most recent reporting period has all but disappeared. Afghanistan—another country in the throes of tumultuous political instability—is projected to see 8.7 million people fall into critical levels of food insecurity by March 2022—more than double the number for the same time last year. 


Climate extremities have only compounded the hunger crisis. As climate change upends millions of livelihoods dependent upon natural resources, rural communities are placed at the forefront of the hunger crisis. Tatiana Dasy, programme director of Save the Children Madagascar, has called Madagascar’s current hunger crisis the worst in 40 years, and has characterized it as a true “climate change famine.” As a season of drought sweeps through Africa and agricultural production around the world plummets due to both climate change and COVID-19, millions around the world are at high risk of food insecurity. The effects of this humanitarian crisis disproportionately fall upon already marginalized groups: rural communities, women, girls, and children.


Thursday’s findings are yet another sobering reminder of the interconnectedness of our world. While the world grapples with COVID-19 and the looming climate crisis, it is increasingly clear that seemingly isolated issues like famine and food insecurity are directly linked to the world’s greatest challenges. Food insecurity must not be viewed as an issue unique to these hunger hotspots. Rather, it is a challenge whose consequences depend upon the decisions of our global community. It will be imperative for leaders around the world to take action in such a way that can meet this reality—united.

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