FAO warns Nigeria, Burkina Faso, others of impending famine

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme has warned that a “toxic combination of conflict, economic decline, climate extremes and the Covid-19 pandemic would drive people further into the emergency phase of food insecurity.

The United Nations agencies also swung the spotlight on Nigeria, Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen, all facing rising levels of acute hunger with potential risk of famine.

Issuing “a stark warning” in their Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots, the agencies said the four countries have areas that could soon slip into famine.

According to the agency, some parts of the population are already experiencing a critical hunger situation”, whereby any reduction in humanitarian access could lead to a risk of famine.

Another 16 states are “at high risk of rising levels of acute hunger”, the agencies said.

Those countries are: Venezuela, Haiti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and Afghanistan.

In the case of the DRC, around 22 million are food insecure — “the highest number ever registered for a single country.”

The agencies said the global health crisis, extreme weather patterns and conflict had exacerbated hunger.

Only fast action could avoid a first outbreak of famine since 2017, which struck parts of South Sudan, they said.

Commenting, The FAO’s director of emergencies and resilience, Dominique Burgeon, said the report is a clear call to urgent action,” “We are deeply concerned about the combined impact of several crises which are eroding people’s ability to produce and access food, leaving them more and more at risk of the most extreme hunger.”

“We are at a catastrophic turning point,” said Margot van der Velden, WFP’s director of emergencies.

Noting some 260,000 people died in a 2011 famine in Somalia she said simply: “We cannot let this happen again. We have a stark choice; urgent action today, or unconscionable loss of life tomorrow.”

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