Areas of Acute Hunger

Bharat Dogra

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) initiative, the highest level of acute food insecurity (Phase 3 and above—crisis and worse) as well as catastrophic hunger (the highest Phase 5) are currently recorded for Gaza. In the case of Phase 3 hunger (crisis and above) the entire population of Gaza of about 2.2 million is affected by it. About 50% of the Gaza population, comprising about 1.1 million people, are affected by emergency level of hunger, or phase 4 and above. About 25% (or nearly half a million) are affected by the highest level of catastrophic hunger situation, or Phase 5. These have worsened for the current period further compared to the previous estimates made for the period of late November to early December 2023. Nearly 90% of the population has been displaced and is concentrated in an increasingly smaller region.

The United Nations emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths has stated in the first week of January that ‘famine is around the corner in Gaza’. He has also stated “Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. The people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence”.

The Human Rights Watch has stated that the Israeli government is using starvation as a weapon by denying food and water to people.

According to the IPC, in Afghanistan 13.1 million people faced phase 3 level of hunger (crisis and worse) in October 2023, due to climate stress, economic instability and unemployment. Here it may be recalled that it was at this stage that Pakistan decided to deport a very large number of refugees to Afghanistan. The harsh winter must have worsened the situation more recently.

In the case of Sudan for the period October 2023 onwards 17.7 million people are estimated to be affected by Phase 3 hunger (crisis and worse).

In the case of South Sudan this number is 5.87 million.

In absolute number (as different from percentage of total population) the highest number of people affected by acute food insecurity or phase 3 hunger have been estimated for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The number of those affected by phase 3 hunger here has been estimated at 25.4 million for the second half of 2023. Here it may be mentioned that according to recent reports the Israeli authorities have been trying to negotiate sending several people of Gaza to the Congo, in what they describe as ‘voluntary migration’.

In the case of Haiti the number of people affected by Phase 3 hunger has been estimated at 4.35 million.

In the case of Somalia after rains an improvement has taken place but despite this the number of people affected by phase 3 hunger or acute food insecurity is estimated at 5.3 million. In Madagascar also there has been an improvement and now over 1 million are estimated to be affected by phase 3 hunger.

In the case of Pakistan due to floods and other extreme weather the people affected by phase 3 hunger were estimated at 10.5 million during April-October 2023.

Regarding Bangladesh for March-April 2023 the number of people affected by Phase 3 hunger were estimated at 9 million.

These numbers are important indicators for the hunger situation at world level. However it appears that the estimates of catastrophic hunger are underestimates in the context of several countries (not for the Gaza region) and need to be revised upwards with further and closer study of the situation.

[The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘Protecting Earth for Children’ and ‘India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food’.]

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Vol 56, No. 31, Jan 28 - Feb 3, 2024