Unresolved Conflicts Exacerbate Africa’s Escalating Food Crisis

by Ella

The African continent is grappling with a growing food crisis, with an estimated 149 million people facing acute food insecurity, marking an alarming increase of 12 million individuals within the past year. This surge in food insecurity corresponds to a risk rating of 3 or higher on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale, indicating “Crisis,” “Emergency,” or “Catastrophe.” It is imperative to recognize that the primary driver of this dire situation in Africa is unresolved conflicts.

A staggering 122 million of those confronting acute food insecurity reside in countries marred by conflict, constituting a significant 82 percent of the total affected population. The majority of the top 10 African nations grappling with acute food insecurity are embroiled in conflict. This grim statistic highlights the profound impact of unresolved conflicts on the dire food situation across the continent.


Since 2019, the number of Africans facing acute food insecurity has surged by a disconcerting 150 percent. This alarming surge underscores the compounding humanitarian repercussions of Africa’s unresolved conflicts, which continue to drive the food crisis.


Although 38 African countries are experiencing some degree of acute food insecurity, a substantial two-thirds of this threat is concentrated in five nations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. These countries share the unfortunate commonality of being deeply affected by conflicts that further exacerbate the food crisis.


The eruption of conflict in Sudan and deteriorating security conditions in northern Nigeria contributed significantly to the continental increase in acute food insecurity over the past year. The ongoing conflict in these regions compounds the effects of external shocks such as climate change, inflation, and the disruption in global grain supplies resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain deal, which facilitated the export of 33 million metric tons of grain to global markets and maintained affordable food prices in Africa, has intensified the prevailing food outlook.


Historically, El Niño climate patterns, which have recently reemerged, have led to decreased precipitation in several regions across Africa, including Southern Africa, Western Africa, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Tragically, fatalities due to hunger have already been reported in Ethiopia and Somalia this year. The World Food Programme (WFP) has forewarned that before the year’s end, 129,000 individuals in Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia, and South Sudan are expected to endure Catastrophe levels of hunger (IPC 5). Swiftly escalating assistance has prevented an even graver crisis, sparing more lives from the scourge of starvation.

Looking more closely at specific African countries with the largest populations facing acute food insecurity:

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Approximately 25.4 million people in the DRC are confronting Crisis levels or higher food insecurity, including 3.5 million experiencing Emergency levels. The most affected are those residing in conflict zones, including displaced and host families. The first half of this year witnessed a significant escalation of fighting between armed groups, leading to an unprecedented displacement of 1 million people. Currently, there are 5.8 million internally displaced individuals due to conflict, with another 1 million living outside the country, primarily in neighboring nations such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. Food prices have risen considerably, impacting the most vulnerable populations in urban, peri-urban areas, and remote regions.

Nigeria: An estimated 24.9 million Nigerians are confronting Crisis or higher levels of hunger, including 1.1 million individuals facing Emergency conditions. Humanitarian access constraints remain particularly high, especially in regions like Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, due to the persistent violence linked to militant Islamist groups, including Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa.

Sudan: Conflict and economic collapse have thrust over 43 percent of Sudan’s population into severe food insecurity. This translates to approximately 20.3 million Sudanese individuals grappling with acute food insecurity between July and September 2023. Of this population, nearly 6.3 million people, or 13 percent of the population, are experiencing IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) levels of food insecurity. The regions with the most acute food insecurity are those directly affected by ongoing conflict, such as Darfur, Khartoum, and Kordofan. Regrettably, both the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia and the army have been implicated in looting and diverting aid, despite previous commitments to facilitate humanitarian assistance. Additionally, the RSF has been accused of employing siege tactics in Khartoum, depriving civilians of access to food and essential supplies, thereby violating international humanitarian law.

Ethiopia: Approximately 20.1 million people in Ethiopia are grappling with food insecurity, with 15.1 million requiring emergency food assistance. This is primarily attributed to a two-year war in Tigray, conflicts in other regions of the country, and a severe drought that has impacted the Horn of Africa. Food aid from the World Food Program and other donors was suspended for four months following the discovery of significant diversion within the country. Alarmingly, research indicates that at least 1,300 individuals have died from starvation in northern Tigray since the cessation of hostilities, with numbers surging significantly after the suspension of food aid. Approximately 5.4 million people in Tigray are heavily reliant on humanitarian aid.

South Sudan: In South Sudan, 7.8 million individuals, constituting 71 percent of the population, have confronted Crisis and higher levels of hunger throughout this year. This figure encompasses 2.9 million individuals facing Emergency levels of hunger across the entire country, with an additional 43,000 individuals confronting Catastrophe levels in the state of Jonglei. The escalation in violence and insecurity, coupled with chronic vulnerabilities exacerbated by frequent climate-related shocks such as severe flooding and drought, the macro-economic crisis, and low agricultural production, are all contributing factors to this dire situation.

While it is evident that unresolved conflicts remain a significant factor contributing to Africa’s escalating food crisis, it is also important to acknowledge that these crises are further compounded by climate change, inflation, and external disruptions in food supplies. The dire circumstances across these nations demand concerted efforts at both national and international levels to address this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

In conclusion, several African countries are teetering on the brink of a severe food crisis, primarily due to unresolved conflicts. Urgent measures are required to alleviate the suffering of millions of individuals facing acute food insecurity, providing them with the nourishment and support they desperately need. International organizations, governments, and the global community must work together to mitigate the multifaceted factors fueling this crisis and prevent further loss of life.



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