Conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks increased the number of people facing a severe lack of food by a fifth to 193 million last year and the Ukraine war means the outlook will worsen without urgent action, a UN agency said on Tuesday.
The Global Network Against Food Crises, set up by the United Nations and the European Union, said in its annual report that the number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent, life-saving food assistance had nearly doubled in the six years since 2016 when it began tracking it.
"The outlook moving forward is not good. If more is not done to support rural communities, the scale of the devastation in terms of hunger and lost livelihoods will be appalling," the GNAFC report said, reports Reuters.
"Urgent humanitarian action is needed on a massive scale to prevent that from happening."
Defined as any lack of food that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, acute food insecurity at crisis levels or worse grew by 40 million people, or 20 per cent, last year.
In Ethiopia, South Sudan, southern Madagascar and Yemen, some 570,000 people - 571 per cent more than in 2016 - were in the most severe or "catastrophe" phase of food insecurity, requiring urgent action to avert widespread collapse of livelihoods, starvation and death.
Looking ahead, the report said Russia's invasion of Ukraine - both countries are major food producers - poses serious risks to global food security, especially in food crisis countries including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
In 2021, Somalia got more than 90 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo received 80 per cent, while Madagascar imported 70 per cent of the food staple from the two countries.
"Countries already coping with high levels of acute hunger are particularly vulnerable to (the war) due to their high dependency on imports of food and (their) vulnerability to global food price shocks," the report said.