By Ntombi Mhlongo
The latest data on the number of people experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and requiring urgent livelihood assistance paints a gloomy picture for most Southern African countries.
The data is contained in the latest Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2023 which has revealed that a quarter of a billion people were estimated to face acute hunger, with economic shocks and the Ukraine war contributing to the increase.
The report states that in 2022, around 258 million people across 58 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3-5), up from 193 million people in 53 countries and territories in 2021.
The analysis is based mainly on data obtained through the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) or the Cadre Harmonisé (CH), which estimate the populations in need of food, nutrition and/or livelihood assistance.
In Southern Africa, the data reveals that the number of people facing Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above) or equivalent remained at very high levels in 2022, at an estimated 47.4 million or 22 per cent of the analysed population in 13 countries, up from the 45.6 million people estimated in 2021 in 12 of these countries.
Eleven of the 13 countries in the region were classified as major food crises – nine of them because they had over one million people in IPC Phase 3 or above and two of them, Eswatini and Namibia, because they had over 20 per cent of the national population in IPC Phase 3 or above.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo had the highest number of people in IPC Phase 3 or above, at about 26.43 million, accounting for over 55 per cent of the region’s total number of people in these phases, followed by Malawi (3.82 million), Mozambique (3.15 million), Zimbabwe (3 million), the Central African Republic (2.65 million), Madagascar (2.22 million), Zambia (1.95 million), Angola (1.58 million) and the United Republic of Tanzania (1.1 million).
In terms of severity, the Central African Republic had the highest share of its national population in IPC Phase 3 or above (44 per cent), followed by Namibia (30 per cent). Severity was also high in localized areas of Angola (58 per cent) and Madagascar (36 per cent).
In his review of the situation, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General highlighted that some of the quarter of a billion people who are facing acute levels of hunger are on the brink of starvation, something he said was unconscionable.
“In fact, we are moving in the wrong direction. Conflicts and mass displacement continue to drive global hunger. Rising poverty, deepening inequalities, rampant underdevelopment, the climate crisis and natural disasters also contribute to food insecurity,” he stated.