41 countries need external assistance for food – FAO report

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Some 41 countries continue to be in need of external assistance for food, with conflicts acting as the primary cause of high levels of food insecurity and adverse weather conditions, a quarterly report by the United Nations says.

The countries on the list, which include 31 in Africa, remained unchanged over the last six months, according to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The countries currently in need of external food assistance include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, and many others

Meanwhile, cereal harvests promise to be strong in several countries of Latin America and Asia, while improved security conditions helped boost crop production in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Conflicts drive hunger

About half of the 41 countries needing external assistance for food are home to civil unrest or full-fledged conflict, while others face severe resource strains due to large influxes of refugees from neighboring countries experiencing unrest.

In Afghanistan, 3.6 million people are reported to be in “emergency” (IPC Phase 4) levels of food insecurity, with another 10 million at “crisis” (IPC Phase 3) levels. In South Sudan, about 6.35 million people, or 54 percent of the total population, are estimated to be severely food insecure.

In Syria, while the increased output of the 2019 wheat harvest improved cereal availability in the country, still some 6.5 million people are food insecure with an additional 2.5 million people at risk of food insecurity without appropriate livelihood support.

Conflict and civil insecurity are also primary drivers of food insecurity in Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and parts of Myanmar and Nigeria.

In Venezuela, hyperinflation has severely eroded local purchasing power, generating acute constraints on households’ access to food, while cereal production is expected to decline due to a lack of agricultural inputs. Some 4.3 million people have left the country and settled in neighboring countries, where their humanitarian needs are “significant”, the report says.

Scarcity of rains

Poor precipitation, including severe dryness in East Africa, is exacerbating the food insecurity situation in several countries in the region.

Overall cereal output in East Africa in 2019 is forecast to drop by 5.6 percent from 2018, with the sharpest output contractions expected to be recorded in Kenya and the Sudan. Prices of maize and sorghum have risen sharply to high levels around the region. Food security has deteriorated most sharply in Kenya and Somalia.

To the west, hydro-meteorological stations in Mauritania registered large seasonal rainfall deficits by mid-August and remote-sensing analysis for grassland conditions in parts of the country indicated the lowest level of biomass production in the last 20 years. Similar situation is reported in northern Senegal.