© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker packs fresh produce at the Sky Greens vertical farm in Singapore on July 30, 2014. REUTERS / Edgar Su
By Maytaal Angel LONDON (Reuters) – Nearly 20 million more people faced food crises last year amid armed conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate extremes, and the outlook for this year is again bleak, a report says of the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC). The humanitarian agency, created in 2016 by the European Union and the United Nations, also warned that acute food insecurity has continued to worsen since 2017, the first year of its annual report on food crises. “We must do everything possible to end this vicious cycle. There is no place for hunger and starvation in the 21st century,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He added that conflict and hunger must be tackled together, as they are mutually reinforcing. Defined as any lack of food that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, acute food insecurity at crisis levels or worse affected at least 155 million people last year, the highest number in the report’s five years of existence. . He warned that the situation is not expected to improve this year, driven mainly by the conflict, but with containment measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic as an aggravating factor. Two out of three people affected by the food crisis last year were in Africa, although other parts of the world were not spared, with Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti among the 10 worst affected places last year. In Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen, 133,000 people were in the most serious or “catastrophic” phase of food insecurity, requiring urgent action to prevent widespread deaths and a total collapse of livelihoods. “While the conflict continues to displace people, disrupt livelihoods and damage economies, the COVID-19 pandemic (has) exacerbated pre-existing fragility factors, hitting the most economically vulnerable households particularly hard,” the report said.