70 million people may need emergency food in 2017

Emergency food assistance needs unprecedented as Famine threatens four countries. January 25, 2017. Famine Early Warnings systems network (fews.net)

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 35 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica

Figure 1. Estimated population in need of emergency food assistance (2015-2017)Sources: FEWS NET, OCHA, Southern Africa RVAC
Note: Fiscal years run from October 1 through September 30. See Figure 2 for illustration of countries included in these estimates

The combined magnitude, severity, and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 is unprecedented in recent decades. Given persistent conflict, severe drought, and economic instability, FEWS NET estimates that 70 million people, across 45 countries, will require emergency food assistance this year. Four countries – Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen – face a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5). In order to save lives, continued efforts to resolve conflict and improve humanitarian access are essential. In addition, given the scale of anticipated need, donors and implementing partners should allocate available financial and human resources to those areas where the most severe food insecurity is likely.

Food insecurity during 2017 will be driven primarily by three factors. Most importantly, persistent conflict is disrupting livelihoods, limiting trade, and restricting humanitarian access across many regions, including the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, the Great Lakes Region, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A second important driver is drought, especially those driven by the 2015/16 El Niño and the 2016/17 La Niña. In Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, significantly below-average rainfall has sharply reduced crop harvests and severely limited the availability of water and pasture for livestock. In Central Asia, snowfall to date has also been below average, potentially limiting the water available for irrigated agriculture during 2017. Finally, economic instability, related to conflict, a decline in foreign reserves due to low global commodity prices, and associated currency depreciation have contributed to very high staple food prices in Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, and Yemen.

As a result of these principal drivers, FEWS NET estimates that 70 million people  across 45 countries, will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity and will require emergency food assistance during 2017 (Figure 2). This marks the second consecutive year of extremely large needs, with the size of the acutely food insecure population roughly 40 percent higher than in 2015 (Figure 1). The countries likely to have the largest acutely food insecure populations during 2017 are Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, and Malawi. Together, these four countries account for roughly one-third of the total population in need of emergency food assistance.

In addition to the sheer size of the food insecure population, a persistent lack of access to adequate food and income over the past three years has left households in the worst-affected countries with little ability to manage future shocks. Given this reduced capacity to cope and the possibility that additional shocks will occur, four countries face a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) during 2017. In Nigeria, evidence suggests that Famine occurred in 2016 and could be ongoing. In both Yemen and South Sudan the combination of persistent conflict, economic instability, and restricted humanitarian access makes Famine possible over the coming year. Finally in Somalia, a failure of the October to December 2016 Deyr rains and a forecast of poor spring rains threaten a repeat of 2011 when Famine led to the deaths of 260,000 Somalis. Emergency (IPC Phase 4), characterized by large food gaps, significant increases in the prevalence of acute malnutrition, and excess mortality among children, is also anticipated in southern areas of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Madagascar if adequate assistance is not provided.

Figure 2. Estimated peak size of the population in need of emergency food assistance during FY2017Sources: FEWS NET, OCHA, Southern Africa RVAC

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6 Responses to 70 million people may need emergency food in 2017

  1. johnny says:

    Africa can choose to stop breeding, or choose to keep having “food insecurity”. A wonderful way of saying “not starving yet but worried that the countries with citizens smart enough to not breed like rabbits will continue subsidizing us doing it!”

    Ehrlich was calling for starvation around the globe by the end of the 1970’s, we can’t even get that with 5X as many people as he knew about, all we get is “food insecurity”.

  2. Johan says:

    “Africa can choose to stop breeding, or choose to keep having ‘food insecurity’. A wonderful way of saying “not starving yet but worried that the countries with citizens smart enough to not breed like rabbits will continue subsidizing us doing it!”

    With all due respect, Africa is not overpopulated with regard to resource consumption, as most nations in the West are, and the land is in principle more than sufficient to feed the continent’s population. The reasons for faulty food distribution and production deficits on the African continent are complex, but generally related to structural issues of an economic and a political nature causally connected to colonial and neo-colonial exploitation.

    • energyskeptic says:

      But nations like Africa and Australia that never had glaciers grind up rocks into highly mineralized soil have much worse soil than temperate areas, and the only reason Africa’s population was able to grow so much is FERTILIZER. As exploitation removes most of the resources, the capitalists move on to the next country and the money for fertilizer dries up.

      Also “do-gooders” did a lot of harm by drilling for water and the water has run out in many places after population exploded 5-fold. Industrial tractors have ruined and compacted soil in some places and tractors are rusting all over the place because if just one part fails, they don’t have the skills or know-how to fix the tractor. Do gooders never go back to see if their projects worked or not, and so they don’t learn from their mistakes.

      Also Archer Daniels midland and other private companies make most of the government money off of food crops, not the farmers, and the food goes to African dictators who discourage local food growing so they can distribute it to their followers and deny rebels food.

      Well, it’s such a mess I can’t begin to go into it all, and it’s hard to generalize about African nations anyhow, they’re in different eco-zones with horrible to reasonably good leaders. But after peak everything collapse, many Africans will survive because they’re living off the land in areas no one would think of moving to.

      • Johan says:

        I completely agree with what you’ve written, I think it’s an excellent summary.

        I just wish to underscore that the level of self-sufficiency with regard to possible food production related to population levels is generally better in African nations when compared to e.g. Western Europe.

  3. hugho says:

    I thought I was the only person who saw famine as inevitable once the population has exceeded the carrying capacity of their environment. Another word for famine is die off. Doe their die off cause me emotional pain? Of course! The famines are exacerbated by political instability and continuing to grow food generally facilitated by inorganic fertilizers which damage the soil in the long term. People(populations) will reduce reproduction when there is food insecurity naturally and this is far preferable to famine and starvation but continuing to feed populations eliminates that negative feedback loop worsening the next famine. Cheap energy has allowed machine produced industrial ag as well as Haber-Bosch produced nitrogen fertilizers but the other necessary nutrients such as potash are in short supply and will inexorably deplete. Energy supplies primarily diesel will become ever more scarce or expensive putting in the long run declining industrial farming. The only solution to many of the world’s woes is reducing demand, reducing populations and reducing food production back to a level that the world can support without these temporary one time energy bonuses. The prospect is sad and depressing in the early stages of a die off but it mitigates a much larger die off later.

  4. Katherine Gallagher says:

    How does the USA rate in this study of food insecurity? There have been recurring droughts for hundreds of years that perpetuate the starvation problem enough, by it very nature. Add to that the civil unrest and lack of support or resources, and now AIDS; people are dying while their so called governments have stopped advocating for them. I am sorry for that and even as a child, was mortified when I would see it on the news.

    I know that most people in the USA have access to some kind of food; fresh or otherwise. We have food pantries, church feeding programs, Meals on Wheels(for people over 60), food stamps and WIC, etc.
    These programs are a godsend for the folks that need them. But there are still hundreds of thousands of people, many of the children, that fall through the cracks— elderly folks with no family and might not have access to a food pantry or Meals on Wheels, which is based on need, not income.
    States need to overhaul the feeding programs, particularly the income eligibility limits. We live in Delaware and are both on Social Security Disability. Our combined monthly checks are $96 too much to get help with food. Buying enough groceries is impossible after medication co-pays and other expenses. There needs to be a category of eligibility for people like us; over 55, disabled on social security disability and medicare(not eligible for medicaid because of that very same $96), no dependents.

    I know so many others in my age group that are going through the same thing—falling through the cracks. I feel for Africa but we still need help right here at home.