Sub-Saharan Africa Facing Severe Food Shortage

The International Committee of the Red Cross warns hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are going hungry due to conflict, climate shocks, and rising food prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The ICRC warns Africa’s food crisis is set to worsen. It says conflict and armed violence, failing harvests due to years of drought, and increases in food and other commodity prices are driving more people into extreme poverty and hunger.

A recent U.N. assessment estimates 346 million people on the continent face severe food insecurity, meaning one-quarter of the population does not have enough to eat.

The ICRC regional director for Africa, Patrick Youssef, says the situation is urgent. He warns many lives will be lost without a concerted effort by different actors to meet the challenges ahead. He says aid agencies, international financial institutions, and governments must collaborate to prevent the humanitarian crisis from becoming irreversible.

“As we look at 2023, we know that this will repeat itself. These climate shocks will repeat themselves; food insecurity will remain as acute as it is,” said Youssef. “It will not end with the calendar year. So, we all will better collectively be prepared for a long haul, for a situation, for a crisis that will certainly increase in size and volume.”

The ICRC reports the war in Ukraine has caused a sharp increase in fuel and fertilizer prices. That, it says, has added significant pressure on farmers, many of whom are weathering the combined impact of conflict and climate shocks.

Youssef says the Horn of Africa is most seriously affected. He notes, however, that other parts of Africa, from Mauritania to the Sahel to Lake Chad and, to a lesser extent, the Central African Republic, are suffering from the effects of the Ukraine crisis.

“Countries are equally, at least those who are, as you mentioned, so dependent on grains and wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Somalia is the worst—90 percent,” said Youssef. “But Nigeria has also a large dependency on that. Sudan and South Sudan as well. And, indeed the situation is extremely difficult for people that are inaccessible for humanitarian organizations, such as Somalia.”

Youssef says lack of access to people in areas affected by conflict and armed violence, such as Somalia and Burkina Faso raise the challenges to a different level.

The ICRC reports more than 35 armed conflicts are taking place on the continent and around 30 million people are internally displaced and refugees. The Swiss-based humanitarian agency says people uprooted from their homes are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, fluctuation of food prices and hunger.

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