Alarm bells ignored as Africa continues to face deepening food crisis

ByFood and Agriculture Organization

Alarm bells ignored as Africa continues to face deepening food crisis

Africa is confronting an unprecedented food crisis, according to a new report launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the African Union 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. Around 30 percent 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 H.E. 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 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.

Malnutrition in all its forms plagues Africa

The report found that the prevalence of stunting among children under five years of age was 30 percent 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 percent in 2022 and was relatively high in all subregions except Southern Africa.

The prevalence of anemia 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 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 is high in Eastern Africa, with considerable progress made in Central Africa and Western Africa since 2012.

A healthy diet is unaffordable for most Africans

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

The average cost of a healthy diet has been increasing over time and was at 3.57 purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars per person per day in 2021 in Africa, which is much higher than the extreme poverty threshold of USD 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 will trigger new momentum for agrifood systems transformation in Africa, creating more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems for people and the planet.