New hunger report: ‘Tens of thousands could die’ without urgent action, 155 million at crisis level

The world is witnessing a horrifying hunger crisis not seen in recent memory, today’s authoritative Global Report on Food Crises has confirmed.

One of the most respected studies on acute hunger, the report stresses that unless urgent and bold humanitarian action is taken by G20 countries – including Australia – tens of thousands of people could die of hunger in the coming months.

In 2020, acute hunger increased globally because of the triple threat of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change. The report found:

  • 155 million people experienced crisis levels of hunger, or worse (level three or above on a scale where five is famine), an increase of around 20 million from 2019 – the highest in the report’s five-year history
  • Africa was the continent most affected by hunger crises, accounting for 63 per cent of the global total number of people experiencing acute food insecurity
  • Nine out of 10 of the worst food crises were in Africa and the Middle East, including conflict-affected countries such as DR Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and Ethiopia.

The study also confirmed that 133,000 people experienced famine-like conditions in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen last year. Around 28 million people across more than 30 countries were one step away from famine (IPC Phase 4), again predominantly in conflict-affected countries across Africa and the Middle East.

Forecasts for 2021 paint a grim picture, with the risk of full-blown famine looming in some of the world’s conflict hotspots including DR Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen, and South Sudan. Conflict forces people to leave their homes, land and jobs, thereby disrupting trade and agriculture and driving hunger. The economic repercussions of COVID-19, combined with ongoing conflict and displacement, will likely worsen acute hunger unless urgent humanitarian action is taken.

World Vision is currently ramping up operations to respond to the deepening global food security crisis triggered by COVID-19, especially in the world’s conflict hotspots (including Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen).

World Vision Australia has called on the Australian Government to prioritise an immediate response to unfolding famine and famine-like conditions in several African and Middle Eastern nations.

“We urge the Government to urgently adopt a $150 million famine prevention package to support relief,” says World Vision Australia’s senior policy advisor Carsten Bockemuehl.

This should be new money on top of planned 2020-21 aid expenditure and be used to deliver emergency food assistance to people at risk of famine, scale up treatment and prevention of child malnutrition, and build long-term community resilience to hunger, he said.

“We urge Australia not to wait until it is too late to respond to COVID-19-era famines. Now is the time to help prevent significant death and extreme human suffering in parts of Africa and the Middle East.”

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