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Africa is facing massive food crisis – UN report

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Africa is confronting an unprecedented food crisis, according to a new report launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the AU Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the World Food Programme.

The majority of Africa’s population – about 78%, or more than one billion people – remain unable to afford a healthy diet, compared with 42% at the global level, and the number is rising. Picture: Bongani Mbatha, Independent Newspapers.

AFRICA is confronting an unprecedented food crisis, according to a new report launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the AU Commission (AUC), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The report, Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition – Statistics and Trends 2023, highlights alarming statistics on food insecurity and malnutrition that underscore the urgent need for comprehensive action.

Nearly 282 million people in Africa – about 20 percent of the population – are undernourished, an increase of 57 million people since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

More than a billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet and around 30% of children are stunted because of malnutrition.

Africa remains off-track to meet the food security and nutrition targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the Malabo targets of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2025.

“The deterioration of the food security situation and the lack of progress towards the WHO global nutrition targets make it imperative for countries to step up their efforts if they are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030,” FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel said in the report’s joint foreword, together with Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, commissioner for agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable environment at the AUC, Hanan Morsy, deputy executive secretary and chief economist at ECA, and Stanlake Samkange, senior director for strategic partnerships at WFP.

The report was launched last week at the FAO African Commission on Agricultural Statistics (AFCAS). It also comes during the UN climate change conference COP28, highlighting the critical intersection of climate challenges and food insecurity in Africa.

The report found that the prevalence of stunting among children under five years of age was 30% in 2022, which remains high despite a substantial improvement during the past two decades.

The prevalence of wasting in children in the region remained just below the global estimate of 6.8% in 2022 and was relatively high in all sub-regions except Southern Africa.

The prevalence of anaemia among adult women remains high in Africa, above the global estimate, and especially so in Western Africa and Central Africa.

Despite modest progress in Africa in the reduction of the prevalence of low birth weight during the last two decades, the prevalence was still high on the continent compared to the global estimate. The prevalence of adult obesity in northern and southern Africa is about twice the global estimate.

The report has a note of good news, stating that the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in Africa was high in Eastern Africa, with considerable progress made in Central Africa and West Africa since 2012.

The majority of Africa’s population – about 78%, or more than one billion people – remain unable to afford a healthy diet, compared with 42% at the global level, and the number was rising.

The average cost of a healthy diet had been increasing over time, and was at 3.57 purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars per person per day in 2021 in Africa, which was much higher than the extreme poverty threshold of $2.15 per person per day.

This means that not only the poor but also a large proportion of people defined as non-poor cannot afford a healthy diet in Africa.

Western Africa and Eastern Africa had the largest cumulative increases in the cost of a healthy diet between 2019 and 2021.

The agencies have urged that the report’s findings should trigger new momentum for agrifood systems transformation in Africa, creating more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems for people and the planet.

– BUSINESS REPORT

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