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Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity, February to May 2022 Outlook

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Executive Summary

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in 20 countries or situation (including one region) - called hunger hotspots - during the outlook period from February to May 2022.

Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen remain at the highest alert level from the previous edition of this report. In their last available assessments, these countries all had parts of populations identified or projected to experience starvation and death (Catastrophe, Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC] Phase 5), requiring the most urgent attention.

The lack of updated assessment data for Ethiopia is a major concern. Acute food insecurity levels are likely to have increased and could rise further beyond the Emergency and Catastrophic levels (IPC Phase 4 and 5) already identified in the last report. These included a projection of famine-like conditions for 401 000 people for July to September 2021 in the Tigray region. A risk that famine would occur in Tigray region by end of 2021 was identified by the IPC Famine Review Committee, conditional on the conflict worsening, humanitarian access shrinking and private sector and supply lines becoming non-functional. While an updated assessment of the situation is not available, according to the Famine Review Committee's worst case scenario, there would be a high Risk of Famine, if conflict was to resume in Tigray.

In Nigeria, while some populations in conflict-affected areas in the northeast are now projected to slide into catastrophic food insecurity at the peak of the lean season, from June 2022 onwards, it cannot be excluded that some may start to experience this even earlier, in the next months, and that the magnitude may be higher than what projections anticipate.

Across South Sudan, the magnitude and severity of already very high levels of acute food insecurity is likely to increase further. Food insecurity has likely further deteriorated beyond the latest available IPC projections and is expected to continue increasing. Preliminary results of the sectoral analysis undertaken in November 2021 identified 11 counties of extreme concern for food insecurity in 2022 as compared to 6 in 2021. In Pibor County, Jonglei State, the IPC FRC had alerted in December 2020 that several payams were in famine likely or at risk of famine for the projected period from December to July 2021.

In Yemen, the latest available IPC analysis, issued in December 2020, projected rising Catastrophic levels of food insecurity in three governorates and deteriorating Emergency levels in other parts by June 2021. While increased humanitarian assistance by July 2021 contributed to a stabilization of food insecurity, recent data across the north and south of Yemen gives indicative evidence of a deteriorating trend in the food insecurity situation while underlying drivers of food insecurity continue to deteriorate.

Compared to the previous edition of this report, the situation in Madagascar is no longer at the highest alert level as the risk of a catastrophic food insecurity situation – 28 000 people were previously projected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) by October– December 2021 has been averted for now as a result of the broad coverage of humanitarian food assistance. Nonetheless, Madagascar remains a hunger hotspot due to persisting high levels of acute food insecurity.

Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Honduras, the Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic remain countries of particular concern, as in the previous edition of this report. This is due to the high numbers of people in critical food insecurity coupled with worsening drivers expected to further intensify life-threatening conditions. Afghanistan in particular is projected to face a record high of people in critical food insecurity and there is a serious risk that parts of the population will face starvation and death (IPC Phase 5) if the crisis is not contained. Sahel, as a region, is the new entry for this category of countries of particular concern, likely to reach the highest number of acutely food-insecure people in the past eight years under the combined effects of erratic rainfall, record high food prices and – for Central Sahel – further security deterioration.
Mauritania has been added in the list of hotspots countries compared to the July 2021 edition of the report.

Organized violence or conflict remains the primary drivers, actual or potential, for acute hunger in the hunger hotspots and globally.
Weather extremes such as heavy rains, tropical storms, hurricanes, flooding, drought and climate variability remain significant drivers in some countries and regions. The ongoing La Niña conditions additionally lead to an elevated risk of a two-year sequence of dry conditions, particularly in East Africa and Central Asia. Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, global and national economic disruptions caused by several contagion waves have escalated while new variants bring new uncertainties and might negatively affect their economies. Overall, high food prices and low household purchasing power are major economic concerns for further increasing acute food insecurity.

Targeted humanitarian action is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods in the 20 hunger hotspots. Moreover, in four of these hotspots – Ethiopia, Nigeria South Sudan and Yemen – humanitarian actions are critical to preventing starvation and death. The report provides country-specific recommendations on priorities for emergency response as well as anticipatory action to address existing humanitarian needs and ensure short-term protective interventions before new needs materialize.