Blog Post

Acute Hunger Continues to Rise in Africa South of the Sahara: 2023 Global Food Policy Report Released

In Africa south of the Sahara, the share of the population facing food insecurity is more than double that of any other region in the world, according to IFPRI’s 2023 Global Food Policy Report: Rethinking Food Crises Responses. Approximately 282 million people in Africa south of the Sahara, or around 20 percent of the population, were undernourished and food-insecure in 2021.

Behind this severe level of food insecurity lie a range of factors: conflict, climate change, economic downturns, pest infestations, higher food import bills, declining investment in agriculture, Ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks, and the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war. These shocks have combined in recent years to drive up food prices, reduce food availability and access, and push millions of people into hunger and poverty.

Central and Southern Africa saw the highest rates of acute food insecurity, with 45.6 million people facing IPC Crisis-Level food insecurity and 9.9 million facing Emergency-Level in 2021. In East Africa, 43.6 million faced Crisis-Level and 10.1 million faced Emergency-Level, while in West Africa and the Sahel, 30.4 million people experienced Crisis-Level hunger.

At the country level, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced the highest absolute number of hungry people in 2021, with 27.3 million people in Crisis-Level food insecurity. South Sudan saw the highest share of the population hungry, at 60 percent. Angola, the Central African Republic, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, and Zimbabwe also saw extremely high prevalence of food insecurity, with more than 30 percent of their populations experiencing Crisis-Level hunger or worse.

Policymakers, the international community, and local and regional stakeholders have responded to these shocks in a variety of ways, including humanitarian assistance, early warning systems to predict food crisis, and enhanced focus on resilience-building. There has also been recognition that these crisis interventions need to include a gender-responsive lens in order to protect women and girls, who often face more significant and long-term negative impacts stemming from food security and economic shocks.

The report suggests a humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) nexus approach to better coordinate and implement these interventions in the context of Africa south of the Sahara. Such an approach would help address the large role that ongoing conflict has played in increasing food insecurity and civil instability in the region by ensuring that any interventions took into consideration the root causes of local conflicts in order to reduce unintended negative consequences and further unrest. HDP interventions bring together local policymakers and stakeholders, UN agencies, NGOs, and donors, to better align and coordinate activities, programs, priorities, and budgets.

To address food security in the longer term and outside the context of conflict, the report also calls for repurposing public support to food and agriculture systems in order to reduce the cost and increase the availability of healthy foods, particularly for vulnerable populations. These efforts should be coupled with increased investment in social safety nets and emphasis on creating a proper enabling environment to ensure that development activities are inclusive and wide-reaching.