Scientists have warned that food crisis will affect tens of millions of people across the globe as war, extreme weather and economic woes put more than 113 million in dire need of help last year.
According to the annual report of the Global Network against Food Crises (GNAFC) published on Tuesday, conflict and insecurity were two culprits behind the desperate situation faced by 74 million people, two-thirds of those affected, in 2018.
The network seeks to combat food crises from humanitarian and development perspectives and tackle the root causes of these crises, and its members include the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), and the European Union (EU).
Researchers of GNAFC have analyzed 53 countries and used a five-phase scale with the third level classified as crisis, fourth as emergency and fifth as famine/catastrophe.
“The 113 million is what we call the tip of the iceberg. If you look at the numbers further down, you have people who are not food insecure but they are on the verge,” said Luca Russo, FAO’s senior food crises analyst, warning that millions more are now at risk of reaching level three and above.
These people, a further 143 million, are “so fragile that it just takes a bit of a drought” for them to fall into food crisis, he added.
“Unless we work substantially on these people and remove some of the drivers that can bring them to a worse situation, the overall numbers are likely to increase,” Russo further noted.
War-torn Yemen is at the top of the list of countries that suffered food crises last year. Some 16 million people in the impoverished Arab country needed urgent food aid after four years of a Saudi-led war. The second is the Democratic Republic of Congo with 13 million in need of urgent food aid, and the third is Afghanistan with 10.6 million people.
Russo further warned that the food crisis in the affected countries would become worse without international humanitarian assistance, with estimates showing the number of hungry people in Yemen would have reached more than 20 million.
The report said that last year was the third year running where the number of people in food crisis hit more than 100 million, but it is slightly lower than in 2017, when 124 million were in need of help.
The decrease is mainly because in 2018 countries did not experience the same levels of drought, flooding, erratic rains and temperature rises as they did two years ago, it added.
The report also warned that dry weather and El Nino conditions are likely to affect southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, while the needs of refugees and migrants in Bangladesh and Syria would remain high.