This report provides United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members with an overview of the magnitude, severity and drivers of acute food insecurity in eight countries and regions that have the world’s highest burden of people in need of emergency food, nutrition and livelihood assistance as a result of protracted conflict combined with other factors. These countries are: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lake Chad Basin, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. According to latest analyses from late 2018 (mainly Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC]), around 56 million people need urgent food and livelihood assistance in these countries.
In five of these countries (Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic) the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity increased in the latter part of 2018 because of conflict, demonstrating that the link between conflict and hunger remains all too persistent. The other three (Somalia, Syrian Arabic Republic and Lake Chad Basin) have seen improvements in food security in line with improvements in security, although a major deterioration is projected during the 2019 lean season across Lake Chad Basin.
The United Nations (UN) is working to reduce conflict – and the impact of it – in all countries covered in this report. UNSC Resolution 2417 (2018) calls on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) regarding the protection of civilians – including aid workers – in conflict. However, violence against humanitarian workers is growing, sometimes forcing organizations to suspend operations and depriving vulnerable populations of humanitarian assistance. Ensuring all parties to conflict honour their obligations under IHL to minimize impact of military actions on civilians, their livelihoods and medical facilities is critical if this growth in acute food insecurity is to be stemmed. All parties to conflict must do more to enable humanitarian actors to reach civilians in need with lifesaving food, nutritional and medical assistance in a safe and timely manner to reduce the millions of men, women and children going hungry as a result of armed conflict.
In late 2018 Afghanistan was experiencing the worst food insecurity emergency since 2011 because of large-scale drought taking place amid the protracted conflict, forcing more than half a million to abandon their homes in 2018. The percentage of rural Afghans facing acute food deficits was projected to reach 47 percent (10.6 million) from November 2018 to February 2019 if urgent life-saving assistance was not provided. In the worst-affected province of Badghis, 75 percent of the population was expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic, acute food insecurity rose during the lean season, despite assistance. The situation was particularly dire for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host families in conflict-affected areas of the centre north and east. Some 1.9 million people were experiencing severe food deficits in August 2018 with over half a million classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Armed conflict remained the major driver of this alarming situation, especially in prefectures where both host communities and displaced people had lost access to their livelihoods and insecurity undermined the consistent delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
After Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had the highest number (13 million) of acutely food insecure people in urgent need of assistance in the second half of 2018. Although at 23 percent of the population analysed, the prevalence was far lower than that in Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Afghanistan, it marked a big rise since the latter half of 2017 (11 percent). The rise in armed conflict in Ituri and South Kivu, escalation of fighting in the eastern and southern areas, and the humanitarian crisis in the Kasai region were key contributors to this worsening situation. Localized floods compounded the impact of persistent insecurity, disrupting agricultural activities, markets and humanitarian assistance. An ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has seen more than 300 cases confirmed in the eastern part of the country.
Lake Chad Basin
Although security improved in Lake Chad Basin in the second half of 2018, food security eluded millions of people as the nine-year conflict and population displacements continued to undermine food production and trade, humanitarian access, households’ purchasing power, and people’s ability to stay healthy. The number of people needing urgent assistance in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states almost halved from around 2.6 million in October–December 2017 to 1.7 million in October–December 2018. Yet nearly one million people remained in hard-to-reach areas. At the regional level, around 1.8 million people were in need of urgent assistance across the three northeastern Nigerian states, the Lac region in Chad and the Diffa region in Niger between October and December 2018. A major deterioration is projected during the lean season (June–August 2019) when 3 million people are expected to face Crisis (Cadre Harmonisé [CH] Phase 3), Emergency (CH Phase 4) and Catastrophe (CH Phase 5) levels of acute food insecurity across northeastern Nigeria’s three states, Chad’s Lac region and Niger’s Diffa.
In Somalia, the number of people in need of urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance in July 2018 was almost half that of a year earlier (down to 1.8 million in July 2018 from 3.3 million in July 2017) when the country was in the grip of an alarming drought situation. The availability of the 2018 Gu season crops and the delivery of sustained and large-scale humanitarian assistance prompted a marked recovery. However, acute food insecurity remained severe in some areas, with the centre north and east the worst hit. The country’s 2.6 million people internally displaced by drought, floods, conflict and insecurity were extremely vulnerable to acute food insecurity. Pastoralist populations in the northwest and central areas that suffered massive livestock losses during the 2016/17 drought and cyclone Sagar, and riverine populations in the south affected by flooding in April and May 2018 were also highly vulnerable.
At the peak of the 2018 lean season, 59 percent of the analysed population in South Sudan or 6 million people needed urgent food and livelihood assistance compared with 55 percent during the same period last year. Several counties had populations classified in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Five years of persistent conflict, widespread and recurrent displacement, record low 2017 cereal production, very high food prices, loss of livelihoods and limited access to markets drove hunger. Although insecurity severely restricted the ability to reach many of those in need, large-scale humanitarian assistance was instrumental in preventing a further deterioration of the food security situation. A September peace deal provided for the resumption of oil production in some areas, which strengthened the local currency and pushed down prices of staple foods. However, different forms of conflict persisted, and the lean season is expected to start earlier than normal, pushing those in need of urgent support up to more than 5 million between January and March 2019.
Syrian Arab Republic
In the Syrian Arab Republic, where the conflict is now in its eighth year, 5.5 million people were in need of urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance in August 2018. This marks an improvement upon the 6.5 million Syrians in need of urgent food assistance in November 2017. While security considerably improved in many parts of the country, conflict continued in other areas, undermining the country’s socio-economic base and agricultural production. When combined with erratic weather, this rendered millions of Syrians reliant on food and livelihood assistance. About 1.2 million people were in hard-to-reach areas, particularly in Rural Damascus, Idleb, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Deir ez-Zor, Quneitra and Dar’a, where agencies struggled to carry out assessments and consistently reach those in need with humanitarian assistance.
In late 2018 the crisis in Yemen reached a critical point that starkly demonstrated the unequivocal link between conflict and hunger and the urgent need for an implemented cessation of hostilities to avert famine. It was labelled as the worst human-made disaster in modern history. Some 15.9 million people – more than half (53 percent) of the total population – were in urgent need of food and livelihood assistance (IPC Phases 3 and above) from December 2018 to January 2019, even when taking into account the mitigating effects of the current levels of food assistance. Around 65 000 of them were classified in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and 5 million in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). However, in the hypothetical case of a complete absence of Humanitarian Assistance, a number of districts should be classified as Famine Likely.
Since the middle of 2018 the stop-start battle for control of Yemen’s Red Sea coast has compounded the hardships facing the highly vulnerable population of Hodeida, home to 600 000 people and a gateway for trade that is a lifeline for two thirds of the country’s population. At the same time, a long-running siege of Taizz created widespread food insecurity and, in addition to two million severely food insecure, there was a pocket of 10 000 people in the city in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
Conflicting parties disregarded the protected status of humanitarian facilities and personnel, making scaling up operations to prevent famine a difficult and dangerous endeavour. However, as this report went to press, the Yemeni parties had agreed to a mutual withdrawal from Hodeidah, a role for the UN in supporting managing the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa, and partial lifting of the siege of Taizz for humanitarian purposes.