The Global Report on Food Crises of 2024


Bread for the World emphasizes the importance of grounding our grassroots activism in accurate information. Policies to resolve the root causes of hunger will only be effective if they are based on reliable data. In the real world, however, the information may be difficult to come by—for example, in countries divided by armed conflict, or in remote regions of countries whose central governments are not in close touch with their entire population and its concerns.  Many countries are, nevertheless, diligently working to collect information at the household level on a regular basis. 

The most recent Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC), released April 24, 2024, does not include every country in its analysis of acute hunger—in some cases because there was not enough data available. It is striking that even with this limitation, the report identifies 59 countries where people are facing high levels of acute hunger.  

The Global Network Against Food Crises, which produces the annual GRFC, brings together the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and 14 other humanitarian organizations. 

The information in the report ranges widely, from details of the food security situation in regions and individual countries, to lists of countries with the most severe emergencies. These lists may be quite different from each other because they use different definitions of “severe” according to their specific focus. The lists include, for example, the largest absolute number of people facing hunger, the highest rates of childhood malnutrition, and the largest shares of displaced people. 

In addition to making information available on a variety of hunger-related topics, the report speaks plainly about what it means when humanitarian assistance officials use terms like “emergency” or “catastrophe.” While it is clear that hunger is a problem anywhere it exists and for anyone who suffers from it, it is also true that funding for humanitarian assistance—whether from global donors or a country’s own resources—is limited. Funding shortages have made it necessary to divide hunger crises into “phases” according to severity, so that those in the most urgent need can be identified in time to help them.   

The GRFC draws special attention to the fact that in calendar year 2023, more than 700,000 people were in Phase 5, the most severe phase of hunger emergency, otherwise known as Catastrophe or Famine. This is nearly double the number in 2022 and the highest number in the history of the GRFC. Most people facing these desperate conditions live in the Gaza Strip. Others are primarily in three African countries: South Sudan, Somalia, and Burkina Faso. Not mincing words, the report explains, “People are facing extreme lack of food and exhaustion of coping capacities leading to starvation, acute malnutrition, and death. They require urgent action to avoid more widespread extreme outcomes.”

A very large number of people in Phase 4, which Bread often describes as “on the verge of famine,” raises concerns that still more communities will fall into famine conditions. The GRFC’s description makes it clear that the situation is an emergency when: “Households have large food consumption gaps resulting in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality or face extreme loss of livelihood assets or resort to emergency coping strategies.”

At the time the GRFC was written, early in 2024, data through the end of 2023 indicated that about 36 million people in 39 countries or territories were in Phase 4 of a hunger emergency. This was an increase of 4 percent over 2022. More than a third of the total lived in Sudan or Afghanistan. 

As one might expect, large-scale hunger crises usually overlap closely with countries suffering from high rates of acute malnutrition among young children. The 10 countries with the largest number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023 were: Democratic Republic of the Congo (topping the list with 25.8 million people affected); Nigeria; Sudan; Afghanistan;  Ethiopia; Yemen; Syria; Bangladesh; Pakistan; and Myanmar (the10th largest food crisis in the world, with 10.7 million people affected). 

Data show that 60 percent of acutely malnourished children, and about 65 percent of pregnant or breastfeeding women with acute malnutrition, lived in these same 10 food crisis countries

Three main causes of hunger identified in the report may be familiar to Institute Insights readers. The first is conflict and insecurity (e.g., violent crime by gangs or other groups that may not have been accorded the status they felt they should have). This was the main cause of hunger crises for 135 million people in 20 countries and territories. 

The second was economic shocks, considered the main cause in 21 countries and territories with 75 million people affected. Food prices in many areas have fallen as the world begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated supply chain problems. But continuing high inflation meant that lower-income people could not afford to buy much nutrient-dense food, and high levels of foreign debt meant that their governments had limited resources with which to respond. 

Third, weather extremes were the main cause of hunger crises in 18 countries with 72 million people. The report explains, “Many countries were grappling with prolonged recovery from drought or flooding. The El Niño event and climate change-related weather phenomena made 2023 the hottest year on record.”

For more on hunger crises, please see Bread’s short articles on specific countries or regions or Bread’s response to hunger hotspots around the world

Michele Learner is managing editor, Policy and Research Institute, with Bread for the World.

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