Rome - Global food supply conditions remain broadly ample, but conflicts continue to acutely aggravate and prolong severe food insecurity. Adverse local weather conditions have also raised the number of countries requiring external assistance for food, according to FAO's new Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.
That list now comprises 39 countries, up two countries from the last report in March, with the addition of Cabo Verde and Senegal.
After a poor cropping season, 35 percent of the population of Cabo Verde are estimated to need food assistance, although this figures is expected to drop by more than half in the early summer with the onset of seasonal rainfall. Poor pastoral conditions in northern parts of Senegal are expected to push the number of people estimated to be in need of assistance there to 750,000, according to the quarterly report from FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
Underscoring how persistent conflicts and adverse climate shocks are taking a toll on food security, no country exited the list, which comprises 31 countries in Africa, seven in Asia as well as Haiti.
Civil war and insecurity in Africa and the Middle East have resulted in high hunger rates, by displacing millions of people, often burdening neighbouring countries, and by preventing farmers from cultivating their fields.
Poor rains have hit cereal production prospects in South America and Southern Africa. Unfavourable weather conditions are also placing a heavy burden on pastoralists in West Africa, the report says.
The 39 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Democratic People's Republic of Korea , Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Africa hit by conflict and erratic rainfall
FAO's latest forecast for world cereal production in 2018 foresees a 1.5 percent annual drop from the record high realized the previous year. But the decline is larger in some areas, notably South and North America and Southern Africa.
Conflicts have choked agricultural activity in swathes of Central Africa, notably in the Central African Republic and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where access to food is further hindered by surging inflation.
Conflicts in Nigeria and Libya have led to less demand for meat, one reason behind the drastic drop in incomes for many pastoralist households in the Sahel region, where grazing and water resources are already strained and the ongoing lean season is expected to last longer than usual.
Meanwhile, recent rains point to cereal production gains in East Africa after consecutive seasons of drought-reduced harvests. However, recent abundant rains triggered flooding in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, displacing about 800,000 people. In contrast to the trend in the subregion, staple food prices are high and rising in the Sudan and South Sudan, affecting access to food and intensifying food insecurity risks.
The number of severely food insecure people in South Sudan is expected to rise - in the absence of humanitarian assistance - to 7.1 million people during the current peak of the lean season (June-July).
Favourable harvest trends in Asia
The 2018 cereal harvest in Asia is forecast to remain close to last year's record level - with aggregate paddy output reaching a new record high - with recoveries in countries affected by unfavourable weather conditions during the previous season, including Bangladesh, Viet Nam, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and, to a lesser extent, Sri Lanka.
Favourable weather will not be enough to boost crop production in war-afflicted areas, as chronic conflicts continue to impede access to fields and farming inputs in Iraq and Syria, where this year's harvests are expected to decline further.
Source: Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel joins FAO efforts to fight hunger
Rome - "Hunger is a crime which we must overcome. Humanity is in a position to do it, but doesn't due to political and economic interests." With this blunt message, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, today became a new member of the FAO's Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace .
"Peace is not only the absence of conflict ... it has to do with everything: with nutrition, with education, and with health, in a holistic way. It is from there that we have to build a new society. We must reflect on how to create a fairer and more humane society for all," Perez Esquivel said.
He made the remarks to representatives of FAO's member countries gathered in Rome for this week's meeting of the UN agency's executive, the Council.
Perez Esquivel, an activist and Argentinian artist awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his harsh criticism of Argentina's then military dictatorship, joins a group of six other Nobel Peace Prize laureates who collaborate with FAO to raise awareness on the close relationship between violence and food insecurity. Their aim is also to urge governments to resolve conflicts to help eradicate hunger.
"The Nobel prize winners have to be at the service of the people and this alliance with FAO is fundamental," said Perez Esquivel. In human beings "the most needy require the support and solidarity of the rest," he added.
The Alliance includes former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sanchez, women's rights promoter Tawakkol Karman, advocate against inter-religious violence Betty Williams, micro-credit creator Muhammad Yunus, former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, and the former president of South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk.
Direct linkage between hunger and conflict
"We do not lack any evidence: if conflict increases, hunger increases. The relationship is direct," FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said welcoming Perez Esquivel to the Alliance. Graziano da Silva stressed the role of wars and conflict as drivers of hunger in the world, and lamented how global military spending continues to increase while countries allocate scarce resources to fight against hunger.
Recent figures show that after almost a decade of decline, the number of people affected by hunger in the world has started to increase, with 815 million chronically undernourished in 2016. In 2017, some 124 million required life and livelihoods saving support to avoid the risk of drifting in a famine situation compared with 108 million in 2016.
In his remarks Graziano da Silva cited the recent Global Peace Index 2018 report which indicates that over the last four years conflicts have increased around the world.
Since 2016, FAO, together with the World Food Programme (WFP), regularly submit biannual reports to the UN Security Council on food security in the countries it officially oversees.
Source: Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations