Famine Risk Remains High in Several African Countries

Several countries in Africa south of the Sahara faced the threat of famine and high food assistance needs in 2017, and FEWS Net is reporting that little change is expected in the coming year.

Globally, 83,000,000 people were estimated to need of emergency food assistance; in 2018, that number is expected to be around 76,000,000. As in 2017, conflict will continue to be the major driver of food insecurity in many countries, including Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, and South Sudan. Ongoing fighting in these areas will continue to disrupt livelihoods, hamper market functioning, and limit food access; in addition, conflict in many areas will likely continue to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching populations in need.

Low rainfall will also contribute to food insecurity in Africa south of the Sahara in the coming year. Severe drought conditions have plagued the Horn of Africa since mid-2016, significantly reducing both crop and livestock production. The ongoing La Niña weather phenomenon is expected to bring below-average rainfall throughout the 2018 spring rainy season in the Horn of Africa, and forecasts for Southern Africa and parts of West Africa predict lower rainfall as well.

As a result of this predicted low rainfall, combined with other shocks (including Fall Armyworm infestation in some areas of Africa south of the Sahara), FEWS Net estimates that 13 countries will have populations of over 1 million people in Crisis-level food insecurity or higher in 2018; this list includes South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda.  

Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan were among the countries around the world that were hardest hit in 2017, with famine conditions being declared in South Sudan and localized famine conditions likely occurring in Nigeria. These three countries, in addition to Yemen, continue to face the credible threat of famine in 2018. In addition, Ethiopia’s Somali Region continues to be of concern, with many displaced pastoralist households facing severe food insecurity.

FEWS Net emphasizes that immediate, coordinated efforts by governments, international agencies, donors, and other stakeholders will be needed to resolve conflicts, ensure humanitarian access, and provide timely, large-scale assistance to prevent loss of life.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

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Irina Fuhrmann / Oxfam