The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ (FAO) Crop Prospects and Food Situation report has found that 41 countries, of which 31 are in Africa, continue to be in need of external assistance for food.
Ongoing conflicts and dry weather conditions remain the primary causes of high levels of severe food insecurity, hampering food availability and access for millions of people.
Rainfall deficits undermine food production
Cyclone damage and rainfall deficits in 2019 caused significant agricultural production shortfalls in Southern Africa, resulting in substantial increases in cereal import needs. Harvests declined for a second consecutive year in Zimbabwe and Zambia, while neighbouring countries also registered production cuts driven by unfavourable weather, including cyclone-hit Mozambique. Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is likely to worsen considerably in 2019. At the start of 2019, already about 3 million people in the country were considered to be food insecure.
In East Africa, severe dryness negatively affected first season harvests and led to a degradation of rangeland conditions. The largest year-on-year cereal production decreases in 2019, in relative terms, are expected in Kenya, Somalia and the Sudan, where harvests are anticipated at below-average levels, the report notes.
Protracted conflicts remain high
In the Near East, despite the generally conducive weather conditions for crops, ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen continued to hinder agricultural production potential by limiting input availability and increasing the cost of production.
In Yemen, in the December 2018-January 2019 period, about 15.9 million people, representing 53% of the population, faced severe acute food insecurity.