Conflict, Weather Shocks Driving Food Crises in 2017

The world’s urgent humanitarian assistance needs continued to grow in 2017, according to the 2018 Global Report on Food Crises. An estimated 124 million people across 51 countries currently face crisis-level or worse food insecurity, up from 104 million people across 48 countries in 2016.

The report was prepared by 12 leading global and regional organizations and released annually by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN), which is led by FAO, IFPRI, and WFP. The report provides the latest estimates of severe hunger worldwide and at the country level, as well as analysis of the key drivers behind current hunger trends. The data come mainly from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) or the Cadre Harmonisé (CH). The report monitors food insecurity in 61 countries vulnerable to food crises and provides in-depth analysis of causes of severe food insecurity for 26 countries.

Figure 1: Number of people (in millions) in IPC/CH Phase 3 and above or equivalent in 2017

Conflict and extreme weather events constituted the major drivers of food and humanitarian crises in 2017. In 18 countries, conflict and political unrest caused acute food insecurity for almost 74 million people. Eleven of these countries were in Africa, accounting for 37 million acutely food-insecure people. The largest number of people facing conflict-related food crisis conditions are found in in northern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan.

Three of these countries – South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria – also faced famine or near-famine conditions in 2017, as did Yemen. The number of people in IPC/DH Phase 3 food insecurity or above in these four countries reached 31.6 million, up 18 percent from 2016. Humanitarian aid increased significantly in 2017 to address the crises in these four countries and managed to cover 66-74 percent of humanitarian assistance needs. However, longer term investments will need to be made in order to meet the remaining aid requirements and lift affected populations out of crisis.

In 23 countries, ongoing extreme weather events (mainly prolonged droughts) affected food conditions for over 38 million people. Almost 32 million of these people live in Africa, while 3.3 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean and 4.4 million live in South Asia. In East Africa and Southern Africa, prolonged dry weather continues to negatively impact livelihoods and food prices. Many areas within these regions have experienced drought conditions since 2015-2016, including parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. The lack of rain has sharply reduced cereal production and led to food price spikes. In Southern Africa, cereal prices reached near-record levels in 2017, although improved harvests later in the year eased prices somewhat.

In South Asia, drought also impacted agricultural production and food security in areas of Pakistan, while severe flooding in the northern rice-growing areas of Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka increased rice prices and reduced food access, particularly for poor households.
In the Caribbean, two strong hurricanes toward the end of 2017 further undermined food security in Haiti, causing agricultural and livestock losses.

The combination of conflict and weather shocks has been a major cause of mass displacement of people. Forced migration has disrupted livelihoods, reduced access to employment opportunities, and put pressure on resources and food security in host communities.

Child malnutrition rates tend to be significantly higher in food crisis areas, the report emphasizes. The global prevalence of child wasting remains around 8 percent, still well above the target of 5 percent wasting by 2025 set out by the SDGs. Child wasting and child stunting both remain particularly high in areas facing protracted crises, such as those ongoing in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, and other countries.

The report also looks ahead to short-term food security developments in 2018 and forecasts that conflict and extreme weather events will continue to be the main drivers of food insecurity in the coming year. Resolving conflict and instability will require strengthened political will, while improving populations’ resilience to climate change-driven events will require additional public and private investments in new technologies and more resilient agricultural practices. In addition, international development agencies and national governments will need to better coordinate actions to improve the reliability and accessibility of data and to invest in food security and nutrition information systems to predict and analyze food crises. Countries vulnerable to food crises will require much more support for disaster risk reduction, livelihood protection, and resilience building.