Acute hunger is at a five-year high, affecting at least 155 million people in 55 countries – 20 million more than a year ago.
The 2021 Global Report on Food Crises, says conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks made worse by Covid are responsible.
It was published by the Global Network Against Food Crises — an alliance of government agencies and NGOs, including the World Food Programme (WFP).
In the forward, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, says “We need to transform our food systems… Mobilising ambitious action is the goal of the Food Systems Summit that I will convene later this year. There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century.”
In a press statement the global network said, “Record-breaking levels of acute food insecurity highlight that humanitarian assistance is indispensable. But that it is not sufficient or sustainable.
“The crisis provides an opportunity to reflect on lessons that go beyond building back better.”
Two thirds of those facing acute food insecurity are in Africa
In a joint statement, the EU, USAID, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and WFP, said, “The outlook for 2021 and beyond is grim.”
They call for a radical transformation of agri-food systems, adding, “The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of the global food system.”
Africa is disproportionately affected by acute food insecurity, according to the report. Two thirds of close to 155 million people who face acute food insecurity are in African countries.
The report says conflict had put almost 100 million people in crisis or worse in 23 countries.
Economic shocks caused more food crises in 2020, as the indirect impact of Covid exacerbated fragilities. They were the main reason for acute food insecurity for over 40 million people in crisis or worse in 17 countries, up from around 24 million people in eight countries in 2019.
Weather extremes were the main cause of acute food insecurity in 15 countries with around 16 million people in crisis or worse in 2020.
Only one quarter of countries are on track to reach goals for under fives stunting, wasting and obesity
In 2019, they were the main cause in 25 countries with around 34 million people in crisis or worse. This is partly explained by the fact that in 10 countries – including Ethiopia – economic shocks became the primary driver of the food crisis rather than weather extremes, which nevertheless remained significant in 2020.
Also released is the UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank inter-agency team update of malnutrition among children under five.
Only one quarter of countries are on track to reach the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals on stunting, wasting and overweight
It says stunting affected 22 per cent or 149.2 million children under five globally in 2020.
Wasting threatened the lives of an estimated 6.7 per cent or 45.4 million children under five.
And 5.7 per cent or 38.9 million children under five were overweight.
Stunting has declined steadily since 2000 – but faster progress is needed to reach the 2030 target. Wasting persists at alarming rates and overweight numbers will require a reversal in trajectory.
These estimates do not account for the impact of Covid-19, but the pandemic is expected to exacerbate all forms of malnutrition.