FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

Challenges to food security. FAO-WFP sound the alarm

Photo: © FAO


The joint FAO-WFP report EARLY WARNING ANALYSIS OF ACUTE FOOD INSECURITY HOTSPOTS focuses on acute food insecurity exacerbated by the socio-economic fallout of measures imposed to contain the spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

Please find excerpts from the report to highlight the experts’ key findings. 

This joint FAO-WFP focuses 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. 

Already in 2019, 135 million people were facing a food crisis or emergency 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 the effect of these drivers, mainly by causing economic activities to decline, which in turn led to shrinking income and reduced household purchasing power, and a multitude of food-system wide shocks. 

In the next three to six months, up to 20 countries are likely to face potential spikes in high acute food insecurityYemen, South Sudan, north-eastern 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. In these areas, any further deterioration over the coming months could lead to a risk of famine. 

While in many countries COVID-19-related restrictions have been progressively lifted, allowing economic activity to resume, analyses carried out between March and September 2020 show a deterioration across 27 countries affected by food crises last year that now have between 101 and 104.6 million people facing a food crisis or emergency. 

Here is an overview of key findings and forecasted trends

  • A further expansion and intensification of violence, displacing more civilians and disrupting food systems and markets, is likely to drive more people into high acute food insecurity in parts of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, the Niger, northern Nigeria and South Sudan. 
  • Macroeconomic crises further exacerbated by the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19-related measures are going to be particularly concerning in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and for Venezuelan migrants in neighbouring countries, as well as Haiti, the Sudan, Lebanon and Zimbabwe. A combination of economic shocks and the effects of irregular rains is projected to push the number of people in high acute food insecurity in Haiti to over 4 million through February 2021. 
  • The effects of worsening economic conditions, inflation and long-term conflict are combining in Yemen and the Syrian Arab Republic: in the Syrian Arab Republic, the number of people in emergency acute food insecurity has already doubled over the last year; in Yemen, a pre-COVID-19 analysis found that the number of people in high acute food insecurity is expected to exceed 17 million this year, up from the 15 million in 2019. 
  • Weather extremes, in several parts of the world, caused by the ongoing La Niña event, are likely to lead to erratic rainfall and below-average, short rainy seasons in East Africa, affecting in particular Somalia and Ethiopia. 
  • Transboundary threats such as desert locusts are threatening to exacerbate food insecurity and further undermine livelihoods across East Africa and Yemen. In Southern Africa, a recent African Migratory Locust outbreak has been reported. Crisis-affected populations are not getting the humanitarian assistance they need due to access constraints,with Yemen and the Syrian Arab Republic facing the highest challenges. 

Socio-economic impacts of COVID-19-related measures on acute food insecurity

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global recession and disruptions to food supply chains have been impacting livelihoods and food security, raising particular concerns in countries already facing food crises and for the most vulnerable population groups including women, internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

Among the different dimensions of food security, access to food has been the most impacted due to the income losses and macroeconomic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures introduced to curb its spread.

The World Bank estimates that between 88 and 115 additional million people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 under a baseline scenario of a 5 percent contraction of global growth, the worst reversal on the path towards global poverty reduction in at least the last three decades. Strained government revenues and high debt levels are raising concerns about the sustainability of social protection programmes.

Economies relying on exports of oil and gas – the prices of which are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in the foreseeable future – as well as countries facing major debt crises are particularly unlikely to bounce back quickly.

In terms of food availability, while markets and food supply chains worldwide have largely stabilised after the initial disruptions caused by the effects of COVID-19-related restrictions, structural deficiencies in countries with food crises have translated into more substantial impacts on agricultural production and other parts of the food supply chain.

Concerns over production prospects in some of the main cereal-exporting countries also contributed to recent increases in global food prices. The FAO Food Price Index had increased for four consecutive months as of September 2020, when it recorded a 5 percent increase compared to its value in the same month of 2019.


The full report is located here (in English only): http://www.fao.org/3/cb1907en/CB1907EN.pdf