Hunger and famine is threatening the lives of children not only in Africa but globally.
By Constance Ndeleko
The world is at a life-threatening juncture: it is very different to where it was six years ago when it committed to the goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
An estimated 5.7 million children under five are on the brink of starvation across the globe. A further 13 million children under 18 years are facing extreme food shortages. The world is facing the biggest global hunger crisis of the 21st century, Save the Children warned.
For the first time in decades, child hunger and malnutrition is on the rise, with many families and communities struggling to provide their children with enough nutritious food.
The disastrous combination of COVID-19, conflicts, and the impacts of climate change have pushed hunger and malnutrition levels to a record global high. Without urgent action, we could see thousands of children starving to death, retrogressing decades of progress, Save the Children warned.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that in 23 countries and situations, acute food insecurity is likely to further deteriorate in the outlook period from August to November 2021.
Ethiopia and Madagascar are new highest-alert hotspots. In Ethiopia, up to 401 000 people are projected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) between July and September 2021 – the highest number since the 2011 famine in Somalia – due to the impact of conflict in Tigray region. The Famine Review Committee estimates a medium to high risk of famine in three out of four possible scenarios.
In Madagascar, a total of 28 000 people are also at risk of famine by the end of 2021, due to the country’s worst drought in 40 years. South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria remain highest alert level hotspots from the previous edition of report that have been published, with an outlook of catastrophic situations.
In South Sudan, famine was most likely already happening in parts of Pibor County between October and November 2020, and was expected to continue in the absence of sustained and timely humanitarian assistance. In Nigeria, populations in conflict-affected areas in the North-East may be at risk of reaching catastrophic food-insecurity levels.
Among the other countries, those of particular concern are those with high numbers of people in critical food insecurity coupled with worsening drivers: Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sudan. Chad and Kenya have been added to the list of hotspots in Africa, compared to the March 2021 edition of the report.
Acute hunger is increasing not only in scale but also severity: overall, over 41 million people worldwide are now at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions, unless they receive immediate life and livelihood-saving assistance.
Conflict is expected to remain the primary driver of acute hunger, alongside economic shocks – including secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – and natural hazard risks.
Continuing high levels of insecurity are leading to more people being displaced, and increasing humanitarian needs. More than 1.4 million people are displaced, an increase of about 50 percent in comparison to a year ago
Higher international food prices risk further constraining vulnerable households’ access to food, as they transmit onto domestic food prices. The ongoing increase of climate hazards and weather extremes, and in their severity, is likely to continue during the outlook period, affecting livelihoods in several parts of the world.
Last year’s report stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic was having a devastating impact on the world’s economy, triggering an unprecedented recession not seen since the Second World War, and that the food security and nutrition status of millions of people, including children, would deteriorate if we did not take swift action.
Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, particularly the most vulnerable and those living in fragile contexts.
While it is not yet possible to fully quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it is concerning that many millions of children under 5 years of age were affected by stunting (149.2 million), wasting (45.4 million) or overweight (38.9 million). Child malnutrition continues to be a challenge, particularly in Africa and Asia.
Efforts to eradicate malnutrition in all its forms have been challenged by disruptions in essential nutrition interventions and negative impacts on dietary patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation could have been worse without governments’ responses and the impressive social protection measures that were and are being put put in place during the COVID-19 crisis. However, not only have measures to contain the spread of the pandemic resulted in an unprecedented economic recession, but also other important drivers are behind recent setbacks in food security and nutrition.