Ongoing conflicts and drought exacerbate food needs, says new FAO report

A woman sells rice at Haití’s Pontsonde market on the banks of the Artibonite River © FAO/Walter Astrada

Drought linked to El Niño and civil conflict have pushed the number of countries currently in need of external food assistance up to 37 from 34 in March, according to a new Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) report.

“The Crop Prospects and Food Situation report intends to provide policymakers and analysts with the most up-to-date and accurate information on food supply and demand, food security and vulnerability to crises, to allow prompt and appropriate action and avoid human suffering,” Jonathan Pound, Economist, Global Information & Early Warning System, FAO, told The Source.

“It focuses particularly on the developments affecting the food situation of developing countries and Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries.”

The new edition of the report, adds Papua New Guinea, Haiti and Nigeria to the list of countries requiring outside help to feed their own populations or communities of refugees they are hosting.

In Haiti around 3.6 million people, more than one-third of the population, are food insecure, almost half of them severely, while at least 200,000 are in an extreme food emergency situation, says the report.

Haiti’s woes are largely due to El Niño, which has also exacerbated the worst drought in decades in Central America’s dry corridor.

Prolonged drought in Papua New Guinea last year has been followed by heavy rains and localised flooding in early 2016, affecting around 2.7 million people. Staple food output in the country’s Highland region is expected to suffer a severe shortfall.

“The addition of any countries to the list of those requiring external assistance is always a concern,” added Pound. “In the June report, the inclusion of three more countries is particularly concerning as no countries were removed from the list so this implies an overall increase in the number of people facing food insecurity globally. The scale and frequency of conflicts in recent years has seen an increase in the number of people pushed into food security, while natural hazards also severely undermine the agricultural capacity of farmers in a significant number of countries.”

Civil conflicts and their displacement of populations have worsened the food security situation in 12 of the 28 countries on the watch list. The new report adds Nigeria, home to Africa’s largest economy and population, to the list of countries needing external help, due to large-scale internal displacement of people stemming from ongoing conflict in northern districts.