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News > Burkina Faso

Four African Countries Are at High Risk of Famine, UN Warns

  • Children enjoy a hot meal cooked with food items provided by UN agencies.

    Children enjoy a hot meal cooked with food items provided by UN agencies. | Photo: WFP

Published 6 November 2020

Conflict, economic crisis, climate extremes, and COVID-19 are plunging people into food emergencies.

The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) detected increasing levels of acute starvation in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen. In these countries, the risk of famine is currently high.


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The UN agencies explained that these nations are going through conflicts, economic crises, climatic disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of all these factors results in an increase in food insecurity among their inhabitants.

"These countries already had significant food security problems at the beginning of 2020 and will face a further deterioration of their situation in the coming months," WFP expert Claudia Ah Poe said and explained that 20 countries have already been declared at risk.

In early 2020, WFP estimated that some 121 million people were at risk of food insecurity in 80 countries. This number, however, could be expanded because of the pandemic.

Compared to what happened in 2019, for example, Burkina Faso has registered the highest increase in people who suffer from hunger. Soum and Oudalan provinces are in "phase 4" of a scale of food insecurity whose maximum value is 5. In these territories, 11,000 people are already in the last phase, that is, in a situation of famine.

In South Sudan, half a million people are in phase 4 in Junqali State. In Yemen, where 17 million people were in a food crisis at the beginning of the year, the situation has worsened as an additional 1.2 million people have fallen into crisis in recent months.

Nigeria's problem is the inability to access certain areas with humanitarian aid, which means that many people are left to their own resources, FAO analyst Luca Russo explained.

Technically, famine occurs when 20 percent of a population is severely starved of food. The WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri highlighted the need for a larger budget and better access to some areas to reach the people who need it.

He has also stressed that what those countries really need is to achieve peace in order to have real opportunities to solve their social problems.

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