FAO food aid
Herders take their animals to water in Niger.
Photo courtesy of FAO.
ROME, ITALY — Conflicts and adverse local weather conditions have increased the number of countries that need food assistance, according to the Food Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

Two countries were added to those needing assistance from the last report in March, bringing the total to 39. The newest countries were Cabo Verde and Senegal.

After a poor cropping season, 35% of the population of Cabo Verde are estimated to need food assistance, although this figure is expected to drop by more than half in the early summer with the onset of seasonal rainfall.

Poor pastoral conditions in northern parts of Senegal are expected to push the number of people estimated to be in need of assistance there to 750,000, according to the quarterly report from the FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

Underscoring how persistent conflicts and adverse climate shocks are taking a toll on food security, no country exited the list, which comprises 31 countries in Africa, seven in Asia as well as Haiti.

Civil war and insecurity in Africa and the Middle East have resulted in high hunger rates, by displacing millions of people, often burdening neighboring countries, and by preventing farmers from cultivating their fields.

Poor rains have hit cereal production prospects in South America and Southern Africa. Unfavorable weather conditions also are placing a heavy burden on pastoralists in West Africa, the report said.

The 39 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Korea, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

The FAO’s latest forecast for world cereal production in 2018 foresees a 1.5% annual drop from the record high realized the previous year. But the decline is larger in some areas, notably South and North America and Southern Africa.

Conflicts have hurt agricultural activity in swathes of Central Africa, notably in the Central African Republic and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where access to food is further hindered by surging inflation.

Conflicts in Nigeria and Libya have led to less demand for meat, one reason behind the drastic drop in incomes for many pastoralist households in the Sahel region.

Recent rains will help cereal production make gains in East Africa after consecutive seasons of drought-reduced harvests. However, recent abundant rains triggered flooding in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, displacing about 800,000 people. In contrast to the trend in the sub-region, staple food prices are high and rising in the Sudan and South Sudan, affecting access to food and intensifying food insecurity risks.

The number of severely food insecure people in South Sudan is expected to rise — in the absence of humanitarian assistance — to 7.1 million people during the current peak of the lean season (June-July).

The 2018 cereal harvest in Asia is forecast to remain close to last year’s record level — with aggregate paddy output reaching a new record high — with recoveries in countries affected by unfavorable weather conditions during the previous season, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Korea and, to a lesser extent, Sri Lanka.