Blog Post

Acute Food Insecurity Rampant in Africa South of the Sahara: GRFC Released


Africa south of the Sahara continues to suffer from alarmingly high rates of acute food insecurity. According to the 2023 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC)[1], out of 58 countries/territories whose populations experienced IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) food insecurity in 2022, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia had the highest numbers (26.4 million and 23.6 million, respectively). In addition, more than 40 percent of the 258 million people worldwide who experienced acute food insecurity in 2022 lived in just five countries/territories – three of which are in SSA (DCR, Ethiopia, and Nigeria).

The region also witnessed the highest rates of IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe) food insecurity, with more than half of the global population experiencing this level of hunger living in Somalia. Thousands of households in South Sudan, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso also experienced Catastrophe-level hunger in the past year.

While the numbers may be higher in SSA, however, the drivers of food insecurity in the region do not differ from those in the rest of the world. Persistent conflict and civil insecurity, extreme weather events driven by climate change, economic downturns, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war all continue to contribute to a lack of food availability, affordability and access.

In Central and Southern Africa, 22 percent of the analyzed population in 13 countries saw IPC Phase 3 or higher levels of food insecurity in 2022. The report classifies the following as experiencing major food crises: Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The number of people experiencing acute food insecurity in the region ballooned by 67 percent between 2016 and 2021; while some of this increase is due to expanded analysis coverage, the report emphasizes that the rapid growth in hunger rates in the region can largely be traced back to skyrocketing food prices, protracted conflicts, and extreme weather events. As just one example, food price inflation in Zimbabwe grew by an astonishing 285% in 2022. While the report projects that some countries in the region will see a decline in acute food insecurity by the end of 2023, others will continue to fall deeper into hunger and poverty as they continue to face multiple and interwoven shocks.

In East Africa, 22 percent of the analyzed population in 8 countries saw IPC Phase 3 or higher levels of food insecurity in 2022. Of these, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, the Sudan, and Uganda experienced major food crises. Hunger levels rose most significantly in Kenya: an 84 percent increase between 2021 and 2022. Somalia saw a 61 percent increase, while the Sudan saw a 20 percent increase. Overall, the number of people facing IPC Phase 3 level food insecurity and above in the region has grown by more than 10 million per year since 2020. The report again acknowledges expanded analysis coverage as a partial driver of this increase, but emphasizes the role of worsening conflicts, droughts and flooding, and economic challenges. In 2023, Kenya and Somalia are expected to face continued significant deteriorations in their food security situations due to ongoing drought, high food prices, and conflict.

The Horn of Africa in particular has been hit hard with the worst drought in more than 40 years. The extreme weather has decimated the livelihoods and assets of both pastoral and farming households, drastically reducing their purchasing power at the same time they were facing rising food prices. While rainfall in some areas of the region have provided a little relief, the report emphasizes that the impacts of the drought will be long-lasting, even if seasonal precipitation is close to average.

In West Africa and the Sahel, 12 percent of the analyzed population in 15 countries experienced CH Phase 3 food insecurity or higher. Of these, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone were classified as major food crises. The report states that this number represents nearly 40 percent more people in acute food insecurity than in 2021, despite reduced analysis coverage.

The Lake Chad Basin and the Central Sahel have both experienced protracted conflict and multiple extreme weather events in recent years, leading to extensive food insecurity and malnutrition rates. These multiple shocks have also displaced significant swathes of the population, which the report identifies as both a driver and a consequence of food insecurity.

To address these ongoing and future food crises in the region, the GRFC states that the international community needs to take action well before a country or territory reaches IPC Phase 5 hunger. In Phases 3 and 4, while populations are already facing reduced food access and availability and diminished livelihoods, there is still time to avert worsening hunger. In addition, such early action is much more cost-effective than later humanitarian aid.


[1] The GRFC analysis is based mainly on data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) or the Cadre Harmonisé (CH), which estimate the populations in need of food, nutrition, and/or livelihood assistance. When data from these sources are not available, the GRFC utilizes the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Consolidated Approach for Reporting Indicators (CARI), and country-specific Humanitarian Needs Overviews (HNO).