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Conflicts, disease worsen hunger in 15 African nations

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-25 09:54

An Ethiopian refugee fleeing from the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, walks past a world food program tent, at the Um-Rakoba camp, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in the Al-Qadarif state, Sudan on Nov 23, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Acute hunger is set to soar in 15 African countries in the coming months if there is no urgent and scaled-up assistance, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme warned in a report issued on Tuesday.

Although acute hunger is due to rise steeply in most world regions, from Afghanistan in Asia, Syria and Lebanon in the Middle East, to Haiti in Latin America and the Caribbean, the majority of the affected countries are in Africa, the report entitled "Hunger Hotspots" said.

The two UN agencies added that political conflicts, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change will have drastic effects on the lives of millions of people in the coming months.

"We are seeing a catastrophe unfold before our very eyes. Famine which is mainly driven by conflict, and fueled by climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic, is knocking on the door for millions of families," said David Beasley, WFP executive director.

Among the African countries identified by the report as facing catastrophic levels of acute hunger are South Sudan and Nigeria, with families in pockets of South Sudan already in the grip of, or at risk of, starvation and death, the report said.

While launching a humanitarian response plan for South Sudan last week, the UN asked for $1.7 billion in funding to enable UN aid agencies and partners to deliver lifesaving assistance to the East African country.

"Approximately 7.2 million South Sudanese have been pushed into severe food insecurity due to sporadic violence, extreme weather and the economic impact of COVID-19," Tomson Phiri, the WFP spokesman, said.

Humanitarian aid needed

The FAO and WFP report said countries facing the highest risk in West Africa are Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Mali. In East Africa, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia face the biggest risk. Also facing threat are Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

"Targeted humanitarian action is needed to prevent hunger or death in these most at-risk situations and to safeguard the most vulnerable communities," the report said.

In his statement at the launch of the report, Qu Dongyu, FAO's director-general, said globally, more than 34 million people are grappling with emergency levels of acute hunger, meaning they are one step away from starvation.

"The magnitude of suffering is alarming. It is incumbent upon all of us to act now and to act fast to save lives, safeguard livelihoods and prevent the worst situation," Qu said.

Other than conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent locust invasion in parts of East Africa was also identified by the report as a major cause of food insecurity facing the region.

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