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Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity, October 2022 to January 2023 Outlook


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 19 countries or situations – called hunger hotspots – during the outlook period from October 2022 to January 2023.

Acute food insecurity globally continues to escalate. According to the recently published Global Report on Food Crisis 2022 Mid-year Update, up to 205 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity and to be in need of urgent assistance (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above or equivalent) in 45 countries. If additional data from latest available analysis of 2021 is included for 8 countries and territories, this number is estimated to reach up to 222 million people in 53 countries/territories covered by the GRFC 2022. This is the highest number recorded in the seven-year history of the report. Around 45 million people in 37 countries are projected to have so little to eat that they will be severely malnourished, at risk of death or already facing starvation and death (IPC/CH Phase 4 and above). This includes 970 000 people projected to face Catastrophic conditions (IPC/CH Phase 5) in 2022, if no action is taken.

Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen remain at the highest alert level, as they all have populations facing or projected to face starvation (Catastrophe, IPC Phase 5) or at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions as they have already critical food insecurity (Emergency, IPC Phase 4) and are facing severe aggravating factors. These countries require the most urgent attention.

In Afghanistan, the severity of food insecurity suggests that significant loss of life may already be occurring in the outlook period, as nearly 6 million people are expected to be in Emergency conditions (IPC Phase 4) by November. After this, the risk of extreme food insecurity and significant loss of life will likely grow, as another harsh winter coincides with the lean season. In the last lean season, the IPC reported that 20 000 people faced starvation in central highlands regions – the first time that Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) results were reported since the introduction of IPC in the country.

In Ethiopia, while more people have become acute food insecure in Tigray since November 2021, humanitarian access has stalled again due to renewed hostilities. In the absence of updated IPC analysis in Ethiopia, recent WFP assessments have indicated an increase of food insecurity inside Tigray. The situation remains of highest concern as the drivers behind the risk of famine warning issued in 2021 continue to prevail. The Famine Review Committee warned of a Risk of Famine in Tigray through December 2021, driven by limited humanitarian assistance, intense conflict levels and low availability of commercial goods and services. In addition, concerns over severe levels of acute food insecurity in Amhara and Afar remain high due to continued insecurity and conflict, impeding humanitarian access.

In southern and eastern Ethiopia, a fifth consecutive failed rainy season will be aggravating the most severe drought in recent history, further compromising the fragile livelihoods of almost 10 million people already acutely food insecure. Overall, in 2022, 20.4 million people were estimated to be acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance; this included more than 13 million food‑insecure people in northern Ethiopia.

Record‑high acute food insecurity in Nigeria, projected at 19.5 million people in Crisis or worse (CH Phase 3 and above) up to August, is likely to persist during the outlook period, despite the end of the lean season. Importantly, the vast majority of critically food‑insecure people (CH Phase 4) are in conflict‑affected states, where access to life‑saving assistance remains challenging. Almost half of these people (43 percent) are in communities currently inaccessible to humanitarian groups, in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.xxi In 2022, 1 million people nationally are estimated to be in areas inaccessible to international humanitarian groups.

In Somalia, a likely fifth below‑average rainy season, combined with high food prices and persistent conflict, is rapidly driving an extreme deprivation of food, with parts of Bay region likely to experience Famine in the context of critical gaps in funding levels to support humanitarian assistance in the last quarter of the year. Several other areas of central and southern Somalia are projected to face an increased Risk of Famine between October and December. Overall, 6.7 million people are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above) between October and December 2022, including 2.2 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and at least 300 000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

In South Sudan, a fourth‑consecutive year of flooding is a major concern because most people estimated to face starvation (IPC Phase 5) are located in the flood‑prone areas, in counties in Jonglei, Lakes and Unity states, and Greater Pibor. Coupled with macroeconomic challenges and impacts of prolonged conflict, new floods are expected to keep food insecurity at extreme levels, outbalancing the beneficial effects of a forthcoming harvesting period.

In Yemen, the outlook on food insecurity is expected to be less grim than the 19 million people projected at the beginning of 2022 to reach Crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above) by the end of the year. Some assumptions for these projections – that conflict would intensify and humanitarian assistance would significantly reduce due to insufficient funding — were disproved while the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on the international markets had not been fully considered in the analysis. Currently, the IPC analysis is being updated.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel region, the Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic remain of very high concern, as in the previous edition of this report. In this edition, the alert is extended to the Central African Republic and Pakistan. All these hotspots have a high number of people facing critical acute food insecurity, coupled with worsening drivers that are expected to further intensify life‑threatening conditions in the coming months.

Guatemala, Honduras, and Malawi have been added in the list of hotspot countries, since the June 2022 edition. Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Madagascar remain hunger hotspots.

Organized violence and conflict remain the primary drivers of acute hunger, with key trends indicating that they both continued to increase in 2022. Moreover, weather extremes such as tropical storms, flooding and drought remain critical drivers in some regions. Of particular concern, the drought in the Horn of Africa, already persisting for two years, is highly likely to further worsen due to a looming unprecedented fifth poor rainy season.

On the economic front, elevated global prices for hydrocarbons and agricultural commodities continue to cause increases in domestic food and energy prices. Monetary‑tightening measures enacted by numerous central banks – including major advanced economies – to curb rising inflation rates have enhanced the cost of credit and curbed financial inflows directed towards developing countries. Combined with growing risks of recession, or a significant slowdown in major economies such as the European Union and China, these dynamics are boosting macroeconomic risks for developing economies. This is in turn causing increasing difficulties for several countries in financing the import of essential items and servicing their debt loads, which for many economies have increased rapidly over the last decade. Many governments are compelled to introduce austerity measures that affect households’ incomes and purchasing power. As a result, poverty and acute food insecurity rates are on the rise, as well as risks of civil unrest driven by increasing socioeconomic grievances, which are likely to further increase in the upcoming months.

Funding shortfalls and rising operational costs have reduced humanitarian assistance across many of these hunger hotspots. Without additional funding, humanitarian assistance is likely to be further reduced across the board in the outlook period.

Targeted humanitarian action is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods in the 19 hunger hotspots. Moreover, in six of these hotspots – Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – humanitarian actions are critical in preventing further starvation and death. This 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.