Food insecurity at five-year high

At least 441 000 people in Namibia were expected to be in crisis or worse in October 2020 to March 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic-related income losses on food access.

18 May 2021 | Disasters

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

This is according to the recently-released 2021 Global Report on Food Crises - recently released by an international alliance of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), governmental and non-governmental agencies.

According to the report, there is an increase of around 20 million people from the previous year in need of humanitarian food aid.

Conflict and climate shocks have been the key drivers of acute food insecurity on the continent, especially in central and southern Africa. But in 2020, the adverse economic effects of Covid-19 restrictions contributed to a sharp rise in the number of people in acute food crisis or worse.

Market disruptions due to measures to contain the pandemic also contributed to the food crisis. At the same time, agricultural production had declined due to a rainfall deficit in early 2020.

The number of food insecure people in the world’s poorest nations, the report notes, shot to a five-year high in 2020, with millions facing starvation.

The majority of the 155 million affected are spread across 55 countries around the world, among them more than 15.8 million children under five suffering from wasting.

According to the report, in 2016, a total of 94.2 million people faced food insecurity.

It said while many people around the world have been pushed to the edge by the economic collapse imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, many more, particularly in Africa, were driven into food crises by pre-existing fragilities including conflict, poverty and weather extremities.

Fragile Africa

Africa is still the continent most affected by food crises, accounting for 63% of the global total number of people in crisis or worse, up from 54% in 2019.

The report warned that millions could slip into full scale famine while more are expected to join the millions who are acutely food insecure, should humanitarian intervention fail to reach them.

In Africa, more than 13 million people require humanitarian food aid

The report added that with the pandemic still not under control, many households will face reduced incomes associated with limited labour opportunities and delays in payment of government employee salaries.

“If there is no improvement, the economic consequences may become more severe as the year progresses.”

In net food-importing countries, weakening currencies will continue to push up food prices and further curtail purchasing power. High levels of government debt stress could impinge on longer-term development policies that could potentially undermine economic recoveries, stalling improvements in food security and equality, the report said.

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