Africa Faces Unprecedented Food Crisis, UN Says

Three in four people canโ€™t afford a healthy diet.

Somalis displaced by drought receive food at makeshift camps outside Mogadishu, March 30, 2017.
Somalis displaced by drought receive food at makeshift camps outside Mogadishu, March 30, 2017.
AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) โ€” At least three-fourths of Africans can't afford a healthy diet, and a fifth are undernourished due to an "unprecedented food crisis," United Nations agencies said in a report released Thursday with the African Union Commission.

The continent's 1.4 billion people are confronting high levels of hunger and malnutrition as the hit on world grain supplies from Russia's war in Ukraine compounds the ills of African conflicts, climate change and the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said.

It warned that "millions are expected to be at risk of worsening hunger in the near future."

With a young population set to double by 2050, Africa is the only rapidly growing region where people are getting poorer, and some are beginning to celebrate coups by soldiers who promise a better life. Despite its wealth of natural resources, Africa is far from meeting its commitment to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2025.

Armed violence in West and Central Africa has uprooted millions from their communities, while in East Africa climate change and extreme weather pose severe threats to farmers. Many families increasingly find it difficult to eat as incomes fail to keep pace with skyrocketing prices for food.

"The majority of Africa's population โ€” about 78% or more than one billion people โ€” remain unable to afford a healthy diet, compared with 42% at the global level, and the number is rising," said the report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, the World Food Program and the African Union Commission.

In 2022, as many as 342 million Africans were "severely food-insecure," the report said. That represented 38% of the 735 million hungry people around the world, it said.

Among those affected the most by the food crisis in Africa are children under age 5, 30% of whom are stunted because of malnutrition, the report said.

"The deterioration of the food security situation and the lack of progress towards the WHO global nutrition targets make it imperative for countries to step up their efforts if they are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030," Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO regional representative for Africa, said alongside officials from the other agencies.

The agencies noted he continent is still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19. They said 57 million more Africans have become undernourished since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total of the undernourished to nearly 282 million last year.

"After a long period of improvement between 2000 and 2010, hunger has worsened substantially and most of this deterioration occurred between 2019 and 2022" during the pandemic, the report said.

In Nigeria, which is Africa's largest economy and a top oil producer, nearly 93% of the country's more than 210 million people are unable to afford a healthy diet, the report said.

Such situations are leading many to question why Africa's governments are failing to use the continent's wealth to make life better for citizens.

While Nigeria has been battling growing hardship as a result of austerity measures introduced by the nation's new leader, the government budgeted millions of dollars for cars and house renovations for the president and his wife โ€” even though her office is not recognized by the country's constitution.

"We hope the findings will trigger the momentum for agrifood systems transformation along with other systems such as education, health and energy, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all," the U.N. agencies said.

More in Supply Chain