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Food Agencies Warn of 'Protracted Food Crises'

  • Sabina Castelfranco

United Nations food agencies say that people living in 22 countries suffer chronic hunger or difficulty finding enough to eat as a result of what they called protracted food crises.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) said in their new report that wars, natural disasters and poor government institutions have contributed to a continuous state of undernourishment in 22 nations. Most of these are in Africa like Somalia and Sudan but they also include Afghanistan, Haiti and Iraq.

"The food insecurity in these countries is extreme, three times more than the prevalence of hunger in other countries, in the rest of the developing world," said Kostas Stamoulis, director of the Agriculture Development Economics Division at the United Nations food agency. "About 166 million people in these countries are undernourished, close to 20 percent of the world's undernourished people, so it's huge."

For the first time the two United Nations agencies provided their definition of countries suffering protracted food crises. Stamoulis said these are countries that report a food crisis for at least eight years and receive more than 10 percent of its foreign assistance as humanitarian relief.

The 2010 study said that protracted crises can become a self-perpetuating vicious cycle and that recovery in these countries may become progressively more difficult over time.

The two U.N. agency directors, Jacques Diouf of the FAO and Josette Sheeran of the WFP said there is an urgent need for assistance in protracted crises to protect livelihoods as well as lives, because this will help put the countries on a constructive path to recovery.

The FAO said last month that the number of hungry people worldwide had dropped below the 1 billion mark to an estimated 925 million people but there continues to be no room for complacency. The drop was primarily attributable to better economic prospects in 2010 and the fall in food prices since mid-2008.

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