Global report reveals alarming rise in acute food insecurity worldwide

01 October 20233 min reading

The latest Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2023 Midyear Update reveals a concerning reality: acute food insecurity remains a pressing issue worldwide. Conflict, climate change, and economic shocks continue to be the primary drivers, with conflict taking center stage in the first eight months of 2023.

In the 48 countries analyzed in the Midyear Update, a total of 238 million people worldwide faced acute food insecurity in the first half of 2023; this represents a 10-percent increase from 2022. The report notes that this increase can be attributed partially to increased analysis coverage in Bangladesh, Angola, Ghana, Pakistan, and Nigeria but also to intensified shocks and subsequent food crises in other countries. A total of 21 percent of the analyzed population remains in need of urgent food aid to reduce hunger-driven mortality and morbidity.

The countries with the largest populations facing acute food crises as of August 2023 are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Four countries—South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Somalia, and Mali—have populations facing IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe) food insecurity, down from seven countries in 2022. This decline in the number of countries experiencing Phase 5 is due to increased food aid and improved weather conditions in some areas. Thirty-six countries continue to face IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) food insecurity, and 39 countries have populations in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed).

Regionally, East Africa continues to struggle most with food crises; nearly 65 million people in the region have experienced high levels of acute food insecurity in the first half of 2023, up 8 million from 2022. Sudan experienced the largest increase in both prevalence of people (growing from 24 to 42 percent) and number of people (growing by 74 percent) in IPC Phase 3 food insecurity or above. These numbers have been driven largely by the country’s ongoing conflict, which has disrupted livelihoods and led to displacement for millions of households. Burundi, Djibouti, the Gambia, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, Senegal, and Somalia all also saw significant increases in acute food insecurity since 2022.

On the other hand, 15 countries experienced improvements in food security, some of them significant. For example, the share of the population facing food insecurity declined from 30 percent to 15 percent in Namibia and from 28 percent to 17 percent in Sri Lanka.

The continued acute food crises seen around the world are being driven by a series of interconnected shocks that most heavily impact already vulnerable populations. As previously noted, conflict remains the major driving factor behind global food insecurity. At the same time, many domestic markets continue to see high and volatile food prices, due in part to continued high global prices of fuel and agricultural inputs, skyrocketing inflation, and rising public debt.

Climate change-driven extreme weather events also play a significant role in creating and exacerbating food crises. The expected strong upcoming El Niño event could further intensify these extremes through February 2024, with droughts and heatwaves posing the biggest challenges to food security. To mitigate the impacts of these continuing shocks and their subsequent food crises will require continued and increased humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations and enhanced global cooperation and coordination to address underlying causes.

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