Blog Post

Acute Food Insecurity Remains Alarmingly High in SSA: Global Report on Food Crises Released

Despite some marginal improvements at the country level, Africa south of the Sahara remains mired in acute food insecurity and escalating food crises, according to the 2024 Global Report on Food Crisis (GRFC). Conflict, extreme weather events, economic shocks, and forced displacement continue to drive up rates of food insecurity and malnutrition throughout the region, with the outlook for 2024 equally grim.

Central and Southern Africa

Nearly 50 million people in 13 countries experienced acute food insecurity in 2023. Of these 13 countries, the situation in all except Lesotho are considered by the 2024 GRFC to be major food crises: at least 1 million people, or 20 percent of the total population, facing high levels of severe food insecurity. Nine of these 13 countries (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) are also classified as in protracted food crisis, meaning their food insecurity situation has met the criteria of a major food crisis in all eight editions of the GRFC.

Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Mozambique caused significant displacement of households, reduced agricultural production, limited employment opportunities, and disruption of trade and market access. Extreme weather events, including tropical storms, cyclones, and severe droughts exacerbated by El Niño, drove up hunger and malnutrition levels in seven other countries, including Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Madagascar.

The report states that maize prices in the region could continue to spike due to reduced production in South Africa and Zambia. Weak currencies combined with rising food and fuel costs led to double-digit food inflation for much of the region, particularly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, while maize prices reached record highs in Malawi and Zambia.

The impacts of the ongoing conflicts and of the El Niño-driven drought are expected to continue to hamper improvements in food security in 2024, the report projects.

East Africa

An estimated 64.2 million people in 8 countries faced acute food insecurity in 2023, an increase of 7 million from the year before. All 8 countries are experiencing major food crises, while four—Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and the Sudan—are considered to be in protracted food crisis.

The Sudan experienced the region’s largest food crisis in 2023, as well as the most significant deterioration in food security conditions from 2022. The escalation of conflict in the country starting in April 2023 disrupted livelihoods and trade and has severely hampered food access, affordability, and availability. An estimated 43,000 people were projected to be in IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe/Famine) food insecurity, while an additional 3.1 million were in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) in 2023.

Burundi, Djibouti, Somalia, and areas of Kenya also saw significant deteriorations in their food security situations in 2023, and in South Sudan, 63 percent of the population experienced high levels of acute food insecurity. Uganda was the outlier in the region, experiencing a slight reduction in the number of people needing urgent food assistance.

In addition to conflict in the Sudan, major drivers of food insecurity in East Africa in 2023 included extreme weather events, particularly drought driven by the El Niño event, and market impacts of the war in Ukraine and the end of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. High inflation and cost of living in the region further exacerbated the effect of these shocks.

The GRFC expects levels of acute food insecurity to decline in East Africa by July 2024. However, the report cautions that these levels will still be high compared to historical standards and that the potential for ongoing conflict, population displacement, and extreme weather events pose threats to this expected improvement.

West Africa and the Sahel

Across 14 countries, 44.3 million people, or 11 percent of the accumulated population, faced acute food insecurity in 2023. This represented a slight decline in terms of overall share of the population from 2022.

The GRFC classified 9 of these 14 countries as major food crises: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, the Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire. Expanded analysis coverage accounts for increased numbers in Chad and Nigeria, but deteriorating conditions are to blame for rising acute food insecurity in many of the others. Over 45,000 people in Burkina Faso and Mali experienced IPC Phase 5 food insecurity in 2023, while 2.7 million people across 13 countries were in IPC Phase 4 food insecurity.

Mauritania and Guinea told different stories in 2023: both saw more than 40 percent reductions in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity. Mali, Sierra Leone, the Niger, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Togo also saw reductions in overall numbers but still maintained high levels of acute food insecurity.

Conflict and economic shocks were the major drivers of food crises in East Africa. Extreme weather events played a smaller role but still had an impact in certain regions.

The outlook for the region for 2024 is mixed at the country level, with some countries expected to see a reduction in the number of people facing acute food insecurity due to improved food supplies and slowing inflation. However, levels of acute food insecurity are anticipated to remain high across the region, and conflict and population displacement is expected to persist in several countries.


Sara Gustafson is a freelance communications consultant.