Hunger and Poverty in Africa

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Approximately 27.4% of the population in Africa was classified as severely food insecure in 2016, which is almost four times as high as any other region. Alarmingly, food insecurity is on the rise, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. From 2014 to 2016, food insecurity increased by about 3% (FAO, 2017).

Global estimates of undernourishment rose from 777 million in 2015 to 821 million in 2017. Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, estimated in 2016 to be 20% of the population. This is especially alarming in Eastern Africa, where it is suspected that one-third of the population is undernourished.

Poverty is a principal cause of hunger in Africa and elsewhere. Individuals living in poverty often cannot afford food of sufficient quality or quantity to live a healthy life. According to the World Bank, in 2013, 42.3% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.90 or less per day, a principal factor of widespread hunger. Poverty is often a cycle. Children exposed to long-term undernutrition are often stunted, leading to long- term consequences including decreased labor productivity and income-earning potential (FAO, 2017).

Conflict and violence can have direct and indirect impacts on all levels of the food system, leading to food insecurity and hunger. Conflict often puts constraints on employment and income opportunities, which affects an individual’s ability to acquire food. Conflict can also affect exports and imports, which can lead to limited food availability and affordability. Availability of food can also be affected if resources (land, equipment, etc.) used to produce food are destroyed during times of conflict (FAO, 2017).

In 2017, conflict was the major cause of food insecurity and hunger in 18 countries, affecting about 74 million individuals. Eleven of these countries were in Africa, which totaled about 37 million people. Northern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan account for the majority of these individuals (Food Security Information Network, 2018). Since 2013, South Sudan has experienced ongoing conflict, which has caused an increase in food insecurity. In 2017, parts of South Sudan declared famine (see image below), and more than 42% of the population faced severe food insecurity (FAO, 2017).

Environmental challenges—including erosion, desertification, deforestation, and drought and water shortages—can have detrimental impacts on food security. In 2017, 23 countries experienced food crises due to climate and weather conditions. Two-thirds of these countries were in Africa, affecting approximately 32 million people.

  • 1. Approximately what percentage of the population in Africa was classified as severely food insecure in 2016?
  • 2. In which region of Africa is undernourishment especially alarming, due to the suspicion that one-third of the population is undernourished?
  • 3. In 2017, what was the major cause of food insecurity and hunger in 18 countries, affecting about 74 million individuals?
  • 4. What country has experienced ongoing conflict since 2013 and declared famine in 2017?
  • 5. In 2017, 23 countries experienced food crises due to climate and weather conditions. What fraction of these countries were in Africa?
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  • For the past 40 years, since its founding in 1976, the mission of World Hunger Education Service is to undertake programs, including Hunger Notes, that
    • Educate the general public and target groups about the extent and causes of hunger and malnutrition in the United States and the world
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    • Promote individual and collective commitments to sustainable hunger solutions.

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