Four times a year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an agency of the United Nations, publishes a report on the food situation in developing and low-income, food-insecure countries. The report is supposed to provide an early-warning system that alerts the world to the need for outside assistance in troubled countries. The latest report just came out yesterday, and things don't look good for a whopping 34 nations—including 27 in Africa. That means 80 percent of the countries in distress are located in that continent.
The problem seems to come down to three main issues: conflicts, drought, and flooding. In the words of the report: "Civil conflicts continued to severely affect the food security of a number of countries, while adverse weather, in some cases linked to El Niño, curbed production in others, constraining food access and pushing consumer prices up."
Many nations are presently in a state of conflict, and that takes a toll on agriculture, food production, imports and exports, and commerce in general.We're looking at you, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. Then there's the problem of spill-over from conflicts into neighboring countries and the resulting refugees, a situation that puts pressure on the food supply in those nations.
Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. Conflict in its eastern provinces has resulted in the displacement of 1.5 million people. Another 4.5 million need urgent humanitarian assistance. Compound all of that with almost 100,000 refugees from the Central African Republic. Then add the quadruple-whammy: Flooding related to El Niño has affected another half a million people.
Other parts of the world aren't getting off exactly scot-free. North Korea's food crop production is severely down thanks to drought and floods. Myanmar and Nepal also made the list.
Still, it is Africa that is really suffering the worst food shortages. The list of nations there in need of outside assistance runs the gamut, literally from B to Z: Burkino Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dijibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, and finally Zimbabwe.
Since December of last year, "conditions have generally worsened in these countries," says the FAO. The worst problems are mainly in the Southern Africa sub-region, where food prices are skyrocketing.
According to a recent publication of the report, "The Asia-Pacific region has shown remarkable progress in reducing poverty and hunger during the last 25 years." Let's hope that the countries included on this list can one day say the same.