As acute food insecurity levels appear to be reaching new highs globally, also as a result of the socio-economic fallout of measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, this joint FAO-WFP report aims to raise an early warning on 20 countries and situations - called hotspots - that, starting from already significant levels of acute food insecurity in early 2020, are facing the risk of a further rapid deterioration over the next months. Through a forward-looking analysis on potential evolutions of food insecurity drivers, this report aims to inform urgent action to safeguard the most vulnerable communities in the countries covered.
Already in 2019, 135 million people were facing a food crisis or emergency (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in 55 countries and territories, while an additional 183 million were classified in Stress conditions across 47 countries, with a risk of further deterioration. This was largely a result of conflict and insecurity, weather extremes, economic shocks or a combination of them.
According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises – September 2020 update, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these pre-existing and on-going drivers, mainly by causing economic activities to decline, which in turn led to income loss and reduced household purchasing power, and a multitude of food-system wide shocks. While the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are differentiated and not equally severe in all contexts, the latest evidence shows that between March and September 2020, high acute food insecurity has deepened in most of the 27 countries analysed in the update of the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises. In the next three to six months, 20 countries and situations shown on the map are likely to face potential spikes in high acute food insecurity, driven by multiple overlapping drivers, and require urgent attention. Yemen, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria and Burkina Faso have areas of extreme concern whose populations, partially or completely cut off from humanitarian assistance, have reached a critical hunger situation following years of conflict and other shocks. In these areas, any further deterioration over the coming months could lead to a risk of famine.
The hotspot countries and situations were selected through a consensus-based analytical process shared by FAO and WFP, based on a selection of parameters:
• Assessed levels of recent or current food insecurity and malnutrition with a focus on acute food insecurity – and deterioration in comparison to pre-COVID-19 times;
• Three to six month projections of acute food insecurity situations based on analysis of primary and secondary drivers: economic shocks, adverse climate conditions and weather shocks, conflict and insecurity, political instability, diffusion of plant pests and animal diseases, and the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 (including direct impact, such as that caused by border closures, travel restrictions, limits to mobility; and indirect impact caused by decline in global demand, reduced Foreign Direct Investments, aid and remittances, and current indebtedness levels, amongst others).
• Presence of natural hazard risks, economic risks and conflict risks that are likely to drive food insecurity levels further up either by having a direct impact on food insecurity (such as unforeseen climatic shocks) or an indirect one (for example, increased internal displacement);
• Dependence on commodity exports, food imports and remittances;
• Planned and ongoing agricultural activities during the October December period and existing or likely disruptions by impacts of COVID-19-related restrictions;
• Presence of particularly vulnerable or at-high-risk populations including women, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, and others;
• Presence of operational and humanitarian access constraints.
The main sources of data for Crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity (current and projections) are the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and the Cadre Harmonisé (CH). For countries where IPC/CH analyses were not conducted and where no recent analyses were available, estimates of the number of people in acute food insecurity were primarily derived from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) IPC-compatible analysis, WFP assessments using CARI methodology or Humanitarian Needs Overviews.4
The report is divided into four sections: an overview of recent trends of high acute food insecurity; an overview of upcoming trends in the 20 hotspots including countries of highest concern; an outline of the latest socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19-related restrictions on acute food insecurity; an analysis of the dynamics at play in the hotspots; and a list of recommendations that should be urgently implemented to mitigate or prevent the further deterioration of acute food insecurity. The cut off date for the analysis contained in this report is 30 October 2020.