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Famine Risk Spikes Amid Conflict, COVID-19 And Funding Gaps: WFP

The impact of conflicts old and new, climate
shocks and COVID-19, in addition to a lack of funding, have
left millions more on the verge of famine than six months
ago, the World Food Programme (WFP)
on Friday.

In an appeal for $5 billion “to
avoid famine” and support the “biggest operation in its
history”, WFP spokesperson Phiri
Tomson said that millions of refugees faced “uncertainty
and hunger” as the impact of the pandemic on emergency aid
budgets became clearer.

“The number of people
teetering on the brink of famine has risen from 34 million
projected at the beginning of the year, to 41 million
projected as of June”, he said. “Without immediate
emergency food assistance, they too face starvation, as the
slightest shock will push them over the cliff into famine

From bad to worse

According to
the latest IPC food insecurity assessments – which
humanitarians use to assess needs on a scale of one to five
– the 41 million “are people who are in IPC phase 4 –
emergency”, the WFP spokesperson explained.

refugee influxes linked to conflict and drought have
increased needs for people in “IPC phase 5 –
catastrophe” and “that number stands at 584,000
people”, Mr. Phiri continued. “These are people in
Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Madagascar, particularly the
southern part; South Sudan, especially as we are now at the
height of the lean season in that country, and

‘Brutal choices’

Launching its
Operational Response Plan
, the UN agency highlighted
operations in no less than eight countries and regions where
it has had to make “brutal choices” because of
significant funding shortfalls.

In practice, this has
meant reduced rations “across east and southern Africa, as
well as the Middle East…among some of the world’s most
vulnerable people who rely on WFP to survive”, said Mr.

“In some cases it’s 40 per cent, in some
cases it’s 25 per cent, in some cases it’s 60 per
cent…The fact is, the assistance we provide is a basic
need, the assistance we provide is just enough to help
people get by.”

West and Central Africa in

For many vulnerable aid recipients in West and
Central Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic
has left them without the opportunity to work to supplement
their rations and unable to pay for increasingly expensive
staple foods. “Countries like Chad, Niger and Burkina,
Mauritania; these are all countries of concern, including
Sierra Leone as well,” said Mr. Phiri, after a warning by
the UN agency that the world was no longer moving towards
Zero Hunger.

“Progress has stalled, reversed, and
today, more than 270 million people are estimated to be
acutely food insecure or at high risk in 2021,” it said in

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