The worst food crises for decades are taking place simultaneously and on multiple fronts. Since the High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Preventing Famine was created in March 2021, it has focused on advocating for famine prevention resources and improved access to people in need. It has also worked to join up efforts to share data and real-time information. This work draws on the collective efforts of the IASC members and has provided an opportunity to jointly raise awareness and come together to avert famine.
The HLTF has repeatedly rung the alarm bell at the highest levels, exposing the seriousness of the situation through a number of actions:
A joint FAO-WFP Call for Action to Prevent Famine in March 2021;
Briefings to the Group of Friends on Action on Hunger and Conflict.
A letter from the UN Secretary-General to all Member States, calling for action on famine prevention.
These actions have been complemented by calls to donor capitals, missions by the IASC Principals to the affected countries and media outreach. A coordinated campaign of weekly digital content has been produced and Member State briefings and events organized, including during the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment in June.
OCHA leads resource mobilization efforts on behalf of the HLTF. The system has been able to collectively scale up in high-risk countries, thanks to donors’ generous support. However, resources received were often below the amounts required or imbalanced in their allocation, leading to difficult trade-offs in some contexts:
In South Sudan, humanitarian action brought six counties back from the brink of famine through a targeted, multisectoral scale-up in the most food insecure areas. Over 500,000 severely food insecure people facing catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 5) received life-saving assistance, and 100,000 families received livelihoods assistance. Lack of additional funding has come at a cost for people in non-IPC Phase 5 areas. Resources, including reduced food rations for IDPs in camps, were re-prioritized, resulting in gaps and potentially increased vulnerability in other parts of the country.
Humanitarians in Yemen are reaching approximately 10.9 million people each month with food security and agriculture assistance across the country’s 333 districts. However, additional funds are urgently required to maintain this vitally needed assistance. Without additional funding, 5 million people may see cuts in assistance by the end of 2021.
On behalf of the HLTF, OCHA has developed a comprehensive overview of access constraints and context-specific access analysis for each country concerned. Conflict and insecurity remain the major drivers of access constraints in almost all countries at risk of famine. If humanitarians’ access is restricted, they cannot respond to food insecurity and nutritional needs at the speed required. Enhanced security measures, coordination with authorities, and local outreach and community engagement are just some of the actions humanitarians take to try to mitigate access constraints.
FAO and WFP continue to strengthen their collaboration around data to create an evidence base for timely alerts. The jointly issued FAO-WFP hunger hotspot reports analyse countries and situations, assessing where and why acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate over the coming months. The annual and midyear issues of the Global Report on Food Crises provide further evidence of the increasingly intense and widespread nature of acute food insecurity at a global level
Despite these efforts, the situation has only grown more urgent and the outlook for 2022 is grim. Since 2020, there has been a considerable rise in the numbers of people in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above), affecting around 161 million people in 42 countries/territories in 2021. However, given the worsening situation at the end of 2021 and that IPC analyses do not cover all the countries at risk, if additional contexts are factored in, numbers are likely to be even higher and up to 283 million people could be acutely food insecure or at high risk in 2021 across 80 countries.
Latest projections indicate that as acute hunger spikes around the world, the number of people on the very edge of famine (IPC Phase 4/Emergency or worse) in 43 countries has risen to 45 million. This number is up from 41 million earlier in 2021 and 27 million in 2019. Alarmingly, the number of people in Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5) is now also more than four times higher than the estimates for 2020. New data reveals a dire trend, with 584,000 people across four countries – Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen – facing starvation and death. It is extremely likely that without scaled-up and sustained action to avert famine now, 2022 will witness humanitarian needs far exceeding those seen in the last decade.
- This has happened through the IASC RG 3 and examples include ICVA Open Letter and the Joint statement of the Global Food Security, Health, Nutrition, and WASH Clusters on Famine and Food Crises
- OCHA, Famine High Level Event - South Sudan. As of 29 September 2021
- OCHA, Famine High Level Event - Yemen. As of 1 October 2021
- WFP, 3 million people in Yemen could face ration cuts in October unless new funding arrives, WFP Chief says
- FAO and WFP, Hunger Hotspots - March-July 2021, Hunger Hotspots - August-November 2021
- FSIN, Global Report on Food Crises 2021, September 2021 update, p. 1
- WFP, Press Release, 8 November 2021
- WFP, Press Release, 8 November 2021