The United Nations has warned that high food prices, climate change, and regional conflicts will trigger a hunger crisis in western and central Africa next year. A record high of nearly 50 million people are expected to go hungry, the World Food Programme said.
“Insufficient funding means the moderately hungry will be forced to skip meals and consume less nutritious food, putting them at risk of falling back into crisis or emergency phases, perpetuating the cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” said Margot Vandervelden, the WFP’s acting regional director for Western Africa.
Extremist conflicts are exacerbating issues
The Sahel region of Africa has been plagued by conflicts, displacing millions of people. But funding for the region is insufficient to resolve persistent issues, the WFP noted. People are unable to afford healthy food, with women and children being most affected. Armed insurgency groups have permeated throughout the region and counterterrorism efforts have largely collapsed, creating a vacuum which allows terrorist organizations to thrive. The result is a humanitarian crisis in the region, the Council on Foreign Relations said this summer: “Violent extremist organizations have not only helped worsen humanitarian conditions, including by targeting humanitarian workers, but have also exploited insecure conditions to recruit and control populations in the Sahel.”
Russia’s invasion made food unaffordable
Local conflicts aren’t the sole concern for the Sahel. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended global wheat supply chains, and the cancellation of the Black Sea grain deal prevented tons of crucial grains from reaching the region. The UN purchased about 80% of its grain from Ukraine in the first six months of 2023, which was later donated to regions in need. The canceled deal sent food costs soaring, meaning staple foods became unaffordable.
COP28 is ‘an insult to Africans’
“The COP28 declaration dismally fails Africa,” an expert on food systems wrote in the Conversation. At this year’s summit, leaders from Africa and the Middle East launched a $10 billion initiative that would fund technological upgrades in agriculture and farming to help millions struggling with climate-induced food insecurity. While some African leaders hailed the move, some experts argue that expanding conventional agriculture would exacerbate environmental damage and increase African greenhouse gas emissions which are largely caused by deforestation and farming. “Climate change will affect Africa more than other continents,” said Florian Kroll with the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies. Aiming for more sustainable food systems is promising, “but unless the entire system of food production is changed, it will make little difference.”