Around 193 million people acutely food insecure in 2021

Around 193 million people acutely food insecure in 2021
Credit: Raimond Spekking / Creative Commons

Food insecurity reached a new high in 2021, even before the war in Ukraine began threatening the global supply of food.

Last year, 40 million more people were affected by food insecurity due to conflict, the climate crisis and economic fluctuations, the Global Food Crisis Network announced in its latest report.

“Globally, levels of hunger remain alarmingly high. In 2021, they surpassed all previous records as reported by the Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC), with close to 193 million people acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance across 53 countries/territories,” the report reads.

“This represents an increase of nearly 40 million people compared to the previous high reached in 2020.”

Even with aid, malnutrition remains prevalent

In 2021, 193 million people in 53 countries faced acute food insecurity, meaning their survival was at stake. Many people suffered from acute malnutrition even with aid, according to 17 actors in the GRFC network, which was established in 2016 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the European Union and NGOs.

“What we are seeing today is unacceptable,” said Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

“We must ensure the sustainability of food systems, especially for the most vulnerable. No one should be left behind. We must address the root causes of the problem, not just the consequences.”

Since 2018, the number of people with food insecurity has continued to rise continuously, according to the FAO, which said the increase is taking place at “an alarming rate.”

Because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the situation in some countries is expected to further deteriorate. Many countries depend heavily on Russian or Ukrainian grain or fertiliser, such as Somalia. The extreme drought in the Horn of Africa is also likely to impact food security.

Crises ‘are piling up’ and affecting access to food

Still, conflict remains the main cause of food insecurity for 139 million people. Countries suffering from political and humanitarian crises are the most affected, such as Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Economic difficulties linked to the pandemic have led to food shortages for another 30.2 million people.

Alongside extreme droughts and now the war in Ukraine, the crises are piling up and “exacerbating” the risks in Africa, experts warn.

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The Global Food Crisis Network also pointed out that the amount of international aid to 55 countries and territories last year was at its lowest level in five years.

In early April, several countries pledged to increase their food aid to the Sahel and West Africa by 1.79 billion. However, an additional $1.5 billion USD would be needed to intervene now during the planting season to increase production and make people less dependent on aid, the FAO said.

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