The U.N. agencies Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) have warned of multiple looming food crises prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate shocks, and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a June 7 report (pdf) titled “Hunger Hotspots: FAO–WFP Early Warnings on Acute Food Insecurity,” the organizations say that “acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further” in 20 nations this year between the months of June and September, and they are calling for “urgent humanitarian action.”
Additionally, “up to 49 million people in 46 countries” throughout the world may be facing “famine or famine-like conditions, unless they receive immediate life and livelihoods-saving assistance,” the report says.
That figure includes 750,000 people already in “catastrophe,” which is defined as areas that have “extreme critical levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.”
The report says that Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen remain on the “highest alert” for acute food insecurity, while Afghanistan and Somalia are new entries to the catastrophe category since the last hotspots report was released by FAO and WFP in January.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, the Sahel region of Africa, the Sudan, and Syria remain countries “of very high concern” due to their deteriorating critical conditions, while Kenya has been added to that list.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, West African coastal countries (Benin, Cabo Verde, and Guinea), Ukraine, and Zimbabwe have been added to the list of hotspot countries, joining Angola, Lebanon, Madagascar, and Mozambique as nations where parts of the population are likely to face a significant deterioration of acute food security in the coming months.
Along with recurring climate shocks such as droughts, flooding, and hurricanes impacting farming and livestock, and dire macroeconomic conditions in some countries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global fallout of the Russia–Ukraine conflict is further exacerbating conditions in some nations, according to the report.
Meanwhile, increasing energy costs—another side effect of the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine—and massive public debt burdens are further worsening the situation in many nations.
“We are deeply concerned about the combined impacts of overlapping crises jeopardizing people’s ability to produce and access foods, pushing millions more into extreme levels of acute food insecurity,” FAO Director General Qu Dongyu said. “We are in a race against time to help farmers in the most affected countries, including by rapidly increasing potential food production and boosting their resilience in the face of challenges.”
In April, the World Bank warned of a potential “human catastrophe” from a food crisis due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which could see food prices jump 37 percent, hitting the poorest nations the hardest.
Food prices dropped 0.6 percent month-over-month in May to 157.4 points, just shy of the record-high 159.7 points it hit in March, according to the FAO Food Price Index.
The declines in May were led by decreases in the cost of vegetable oils and dairy prices along with sugar. However, cereal and meat prices increased.
However, given that Ukraine and Russia are major producers of the world’s wheat and corn, reduced production in the former could see prices for the key global commodities increase further.