starvation in Africa
In East Africa, hunger is a major crisis. In fact, about 20 percent of the entire African population experiences hunger daily. While the claim that African children die from malnutrition every few seconds is a bit exaggerated, the true number of deaths from starvation in Africa is still quite alarming. Here are the causes and facts about the African hunger crises, as well as potential solutions to ebbing them.

The Causes

Hunger and malnutrition are not instantaneous, and there are many factors involved, such as poverty, drought, conflict and governance. Historically, famines and hunger crises from drought or war have plagued Africa’s poor since 1968. More often than not, extreme weather and climates will yield unsuccessful crops, which in turn subtracts from the profit that families can make from farming.

People suffering from poverty often cannot afford to purchase food, both in quality and quantity. Conflict and violence further instigate the food crisis by causing food insecurities and lessening the availability of food imports and incomes. Lastly, insufficient access to food can also be the result of poor governance and policies. Without proper leadership and guidance from governments, conflict and poverty can affect the quality, availability and affordability of food.

The Facts

As aforementioned, 20 percent of the African population—257 million people—suffer from hunger and famine. In the Sub-Saharan alone, 237 million suffer chronic undernourishment. As of June 2019, nearly 60 million children in Africa are underfed despite the continent’s recent economic growth.

Statistically, nine out of 10 African children do not meet the World Health Organization’s criteria for a minimum acceptable diet, and two in five children do not eat meals on a regular or scheduled basis. Children who suffer from such hunger also experience stunted growth and impaired cognitive development.

In truth, this is due to malnutrition, which is different from hunger in that while a child can fill its stomach with food and water, he or she will still suffer from a lack of essential nutrients that do not exist in the food they are eating. This is true for adults in Africa as well. While the number of starving, malnourished Africans is alarmingly high and ranging in the millions, however, the number of deaths from starvation in Africa is surprisingly low at approximately 400,000 deaths per year.

The Solutions

In order to prevent these numbers from increasing, the poor and the malnourished require accessible, affordable, good-quality food, as well as innovations to improve the harvests. In fact, the nonprofit World Vision has been doing so for over 40 years, providing emergency aid and long-term assistance to African communities and families.

In the event of a food crisis, World Vision offers food assistance, including emergency feeding those who are starving and treating malnourished children. It also provides fresh, clean water and sanitation to those in need. For the long term, World Vision offers business training and equipment to families to prepare them for another onslaught of adverse weather and gives families cash to support and provide for themselves.

In other words, with the right assistance, families and communities can avoid another hunger crisis and ebb the number of deaths from starvation in Africa. People either downplay or exaggerate the hunger crisis in Africa. The truth about starvation in Africa needs to come out.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Starvation in Africa
In March 2017, the United Nations (U.N.) warned that some 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen face starvation and famine if the international community did not act quickly. This warning refocused attention on the ongoing food insecurity faced throughout the African continent. While the issue is completely preventable, starvation in Africa still exists.

Facts about Starvation in Africa:

    1. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N., some 153 million people (about 26 percent of the adult population) suffered from severe food insecurity in 2014/15 in sub-Saharan Africa.
    2. Food insecurity exists when people do not have adequate access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their needs for an active and healthy life. The issue is thus not the existence of enough food, but the access to food.
    3. There are various interrelated reasons why African states are vulnerable to food insecurity. Several countries in the region remain highly dependent on food imports to ensure adequate food supplies. Thus exposing them to unstable food markets and commodity prices. The African region also has the lowest per capita income in the world and the highest poverty levels. This means that large parts of the region’s populations are unable to cope with rising food prices.
    4. The majority of Africans are also directly dependent on subsistence farming on a continent that is prone to extreme natural disasters, including severe drought and floods. These natural disasters lead to failed crops, as well as insufficient pasture feed and water for livestock. The current El Nino drought has been one of the most intense and widespread in the past 100 years.
    5. The majority of African countries facing acute food insecurities are also experiencing internal conflict. This impedes both access to food and food production. The levels of political instability and corruption result in these states being unable to address food crises, whether caused by rising food prices or natural disasters.
    6. Food insecurity in South Sudan has reached extreme levels. Several parts of the country declared pockets of famine, and nearly 100,000 people face starvation. Limited humanitarian assistance has reached these regions because of recurrent fighting due to civil war.
    7. A famine can only be declared when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. Namely, at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope, acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent, and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day. The last famine in Africa was in Somalia in 2011, which killed an estimated 260,000 people.
    8. Apart from the three countries highlighted by the U.N., several other African countries are facing acute levels of food insecurity. The World Food Programme classified emergency situations in the Lake Chad Basin (Cameroon, Chad, Niger, including Nigeria) and Southern Africa (Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
    9. The Lake Chad Basin faces an acute humanitarian crisis caused by existing challenges of extreme poverty, underdevelopment and climate change. Boko Haram violence only aggravates these challenges. Some 7.1 million people need food assistance, and famine looms in the areas most affected by the crisis in northeast Nigeria. Malnutrition in the region is rising at alarming rates, and more than half a million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
    10. While the situation in southern Africa has stabilized somewhat in recent months, food insecurity remains widespread following two years of consecutive drought. Some 16 million people in the countries worst-hit by drought will need emergency humanitarian assistance throughout early 2017.

The current levels of food insecurity and starvation in Africa are bleak. Humanitarian assistance is sorely needed to address the food crises in the hardest hit areas. While this would help to address the crisis in the short-term, more attention should also be given to long-term peace-building and food security efforts on the continent to prevent the recurrence of famine.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr