South Sudan, 2016: As fighting ensued in their villages, people fled into the swamps of Southern Unity to find a safe place to hide. They created little islands by flattening the reeds and adding mud. <br />Photo: ©FAO/Francis Muana

South Sudan, 2016: As fighting ensued in their villages, people fled into the swamps of Southern Unity to find a safe place to hide. They created little islands by flattening the reeds and adding mud.
Photo: ©FAO/Francis Muana

More than 100 million people are food insecure

The number of people in the world facing severe food insecurity has risen dramatically since 2015. The main driving factor of humanitarian crises are civil conflicts, which often causes a rapid deterioration in the livelihoods of rural people and agricultural productivity.

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 March 2017.

The report was published in collaboration between the European Union and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions and together with UN agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF.

The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices on local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such as drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño.

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, according to the report. In countries affected by conflict, the lack of access to food coupled with unsustainable coping mechanisms cause a rapid deterioration in the livelihoods of rural people. In many cases, the detrimental effect the conflict has on agriculture and other basic means of production slows economic progress and affects mar-ket development.

Most critical situations are worsening

This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience-building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria. Other countries that require massive levels of assistance because of widespread food insecurity are Iraq, Syria (including refugees in neighbouring countries) Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the absence of im-mediate 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 the com-ing months, according to the report.

The 108 million people reported to be facing severe food insecurity in 2016 represent those suf-fering from higher-than-usual acute malnutrition and a broad lack of minimally adequate food even with external assistance. This includes households that can cope with their minimum food needs only by depleting seeds, livestock and agricultural assets needed to produce food in the fu-ture. Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slip-ping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.

Read more and download the report: Global report on food crises 2017

(WFP/ile)