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Red alert on world's 19 hunger hot-spots issued, but will help reach in time?

By Bharat Dogra 

The Global Report on Food Crisis has been drawing attention to the people affected by acute hunger annually for seven years, and this year its recently presented estimates stated that as many as 205 million spread over 45 countries are affected by acute food insecurity and need urgent assistance. To this were later added 17 million people from 8 other countries leading to a total of 222 million in 53 countries. This is the highest level seen in the 7 years since the report has been prepared.
Subsequently in September the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program issued an update which presents the acute hunger outlook for the period October 22, 2022 to January 23, 2023. This has presented a more concentrated report on 19 hunger hot-spots (19 countries and situations/regions).
In Afghanistan as many as 6 million people are affected by a food insecurity emergency. Loss of life relating to this may be already occurring.
In Tigray region of Ethiopia renewed conflict has increased the risk. Neighboring Amhara and Afar should be added to the high-risk situation. South-east part of Ethiopia is affected by fifth consecutive rain failure. In fact most of the entire Horn of Africa region has been affected by fifth consecutive rain failure or at least below normal rains.
In Nigeria 19.5 million people are affected by acute food insecurity. Most of those in worst condition are in conflict- affected zones. Some—perhaps about one million people—are simply inaccessible to humanitarian organizations.
Somalia is affected by fifth consecutive year of below normal rains, a situation worsened by conflicts. 6.7 million are affected by acute food insecurity, 2.2 million are in an emergency situation, nearly 300,000 face a catastrophic situation.
South Sudan has experienced fourth consecutive year of flooding. In addition conflicts have added to the distress of people.
In Yemen earlier 19 million people were were stated to be affected by acute food insecurity, but with the reduction of conflict this number may have reduced, although Yemen still remains a hunger hot-spot. Syria is another West Asian country included in the hunger hot-spots.
From the American part of the world Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras have been included. In South Asia, apart from Afghanistan, following recent events, parts of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka too are included.
In Africa the Central African Republic and Malawi are new additions, adding to Sudan, the Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and parts of the Sahel region.
In addition to these hunger hot-spots some other countries like Myanmar have been mentioned for careful watch as the situation here too has been deteriorating.
Prolonged drought and repeated rain failure have been cited as an important reason for the distressing situation in many of these countries or regions, while excessive floods have been mentioned as an important factor in some other countries like South Sudan and Pakistan. Such extreme weather events have been occurring more frequently, at times to unprecedented extent, and in this context a close linkage with climate change is established.
The other most common factor responsible for creating such acute hunger situation is conflict. This is the most easy to avoid factor, and yet in practice this has been so widely pervasive.
The high levels of debts of several of these countries and the austerity programs related to these have also resulted in increasing the distress of people.
The international community has not been able to prioritize the distress of people in hunger hot-spots adequately. Enough resources for an adequate relief and rehabilitation effort have not been available.
The Ukraine conflict has received the bulk of the attention of several potentially big donors, resulting in relative neglect of urgent needs of the countries and regions worst affected by acute hunger. Some of these countries were dependent on Ukraine and Russia for a substantial share of their supply of food and fertilizer, and this too has been adversely affected this year due to the Ukraine conflict.
As the weeks ahead can be extremely distressing for the people of these countries and regions, it is important to mobilize more support and relief supplies on emergency basis. Here are several very serious situations regarding which step-by-step warnings of acute distress and worsening distress have been given, but adequate action has not been taken and now we have on hand a situation in which, in all likelihood, starvation deaths are taking place in several of these hunger hot-spots in significant numbers. A lot can still be done to salvage the situation somewhat, both in terms of stepping up the relief efforts as well as reducing/resolving conflicts. Debt waiving and relaxation of austerity programs will be helpful too.
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The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril', ‘A Day in 2071’ and ‘India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food'

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