IASC Members Ring the Warning Bells: Famine Risk in 2021

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Photograph by Giles Clarke/Getty Images Reportage

In response to the threat of famine due to the alarming acute hunger projections in 2021, the United Nations Secretary-General convened a High-Level Task Force to Prevent Famine charged with drawing attention to and mobilising the necessary resources and capacities to avoid the further deterioration of the food insecurity of some of the most vulnerable populations around the world. The Task Force is chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator with the participation of FAO, WFP, and other IASC members.

According to estimates from FAO and WFP, 155 million people in 55 countries are currently experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity. This means that tens of millions of families around the world are eating just one meal a day or going to bed hungry. Economic shocks, socio-economic impacts from COVID-19, extreme weather conditions and conflict are some of the key drivers associated with a dramatic increase in global hunger. 

The Global Report on Food Crises shows that in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen, 133 000 people are at risk of dying of hunger, with some suffering from catastrophic levels of food insecurity [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification(IPC) Phase 5)]. In Ethiopia, 8.6 million people are in IPC phase 3 or above, including about 1.4 million people struggling with high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 4). Without urgent action, this number is expected to rise to 12.9 million people as a result of the concerning humanitarian situation in the northern region of Tigray.

Map of Hunger
(Above map is from the FAO and WFP Hunger Hotspots report)

The IASC continues to step-up efforts to avert the risk of famine, including by coordinating a system-wide approaches, advocating for additional funding, and strengthening collaboration on data. Some of its other activities include:

  • The High Level Task Force issued a communications strategy on famine prevention with a focus on the six-month window (April – September) and four countries (South Sudan, Yemen, Northeast Nigeria, and Burkina Faso), including targeted Key Messages which enumerates various opportunities for advocacy engagements with stakeholders. IASC members actively contributed to this process and continue individual and collective efforts to advocate with stakeholders and raise the alarm on the challenges and impact of famine.
  • As the High-Level Task Force is headed by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, he has continued to consult with IASC members to ensure a system-wide approach to preventing famine. Meanwhile OCHA has also continued to support and ensure complementarity, particularly with the engagement of the Global Food Security Cluster to advance individual and collective efforts by IASC members.
  • FAO and WFP continue to seize opportunities to raise the alarm and highlight individual and joint efforts at preventing famine, including through organizing events at the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment on Preventing Famine and Responding to Extreme Food Insecurity in the COVID-19 Era

IASC members continue to intensify their individual and collective efforts, including through the High-Level Task Force, to avert famine.