"The war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the deeply unequal recovery," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The world is talking about a global hunger crisis and even in Bangladesh; the PM Sk. Hasina has said that there is a serious threat to food security in 2023.
"There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022. And 2023 could be even worse," Guterres added. Till date however no famine has been declared but the threat remains. As it happens, the Horn of Africa is in dire straits and millions face severe hunger. The World Food Programme estimates that 276 million are experiencing severe food insecurity.
Fertilizer and energy prices rose in 2021 and 2022 impacting on harvests compounding the problem. "No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said while mentioning the food shortage crisis that Bangladesh will have to become self-reliant in all aspects of food security. "We have soil and manpower. So, we have to take initiative from now on so that Bangladesh never has to face famine and food insufficiency-like situations. We will have to grow our food," she said. "We have to be self-reliant by growing food for ourselves and we have to give some produced grains to the neighbours."
FAO and WFP warnings
FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) have said that acute food insecurity could get worse in 19 countries termed "hunger hotspots". The period will be from October 2022 to January 2023.
Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen remain at the highest concern level requiring the most urgent attention.
Discussing Afghanistan, UN officials said they fear that lives lost due to hunger may already have occurred and about 6 million people could be in Emergency conditions by November. With a harsh winter ahead, things could get worse.
In Ethiopia, the situation is acute particularly in Tigray from the end 2021 but interventions have also been suspended as war has broken out. With five failed rainfalls, over 20 million are considered to be in acute food insecurity. Nigeria too is in a bad shape and nearly 20 million people could be in a famine situation.
Somalia and southern Sudan are both experiencing extreme food insecurity. Yemen will be in great difficulties but the situation appears to be easing slightly. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel region, the Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic remain zones of high concern.
Central African Republic, Pakistan, Guatemala, Honduras, and Malawi have been added in the list of hotspot countries, since the June 2022 edition. Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Madagascar meanwhile remain hunger hotspots.
Hunger hotspots: The reasons why
Not one but several factors are responsible and they are linked to each other. In fact, conflicts, natural disasters, climate change issues, weak governance and impact of the European Russo-Ukraine war have all contributed to create a global disaster scenario rarely seen since WW 2. While it is eroding confidence in a globalized economic system, the options to that have not been seen either.
Most world leaders and their technocrat advisers appear to be unable to advise them meaningfully. Basically, the situation has rapidly gone out of various governments' hands.
Inflation, shortage of foreign exchange for imposing essential goods, growing risks of recessions, and significant slowdown in major economies is affecting all. When the European Union and China slows down, the world basically does also. When poverty and acute food insecurity increases, socio-political turmoil is inevitable too as the state system faces collapse in one form or another.
6 of the hotspots are in very bad shape - Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - and unless humanitarian actions are taken, more starvation and death will occur. Rests are not facing death and starvation immediately but escalating to an extreme level rapidly is very possible.
Two countries have been named as "hotspots" in South Asia- Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka has been undergoing turmoil for at least a year or more, Pakistan has been a recent entrant after its devastating floods. Sri Lanka has seen a massive socio-economic turmoil and its agriculture collapsed after a disastrous decision to introduce organic fertilizers. This was largely because it couldn't afford to import chemical fertilizers as it had run out of foreign exchange reserves and in severe debt.
Pakistan was a victim of severe flooding caused by what most experts say are climate change factors. But Pakistan is also a victim of poor governance mechanisms and weak ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies.
Other countries of South Asia are still safe but all will remain vulnerable as governance and macro-economic problems plague them all with India the least.
A sort of transition is on which shows that conventional globalization has left most poor zones exposed to risks. Most factors responsible for hunger are long term and apart from mis-governance are located in the wealthy part of the world. However, with military and economic power deciding the relationship, hotspots can only be reduced if at all but this isn't about to go away, particularly as climate change begins to exert its impact.
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