Famine is never inevitable – with proper planning and coordination, it can be prevented and millions of lives can be saved.
Famine is declared when malnutrition is widespread, and when people have started dying of starvation through lack of access to sufficient, nutritious food. Inequality is a critical factor, with low incomes in particular putting affordable food beyond the reach of millions.
In 2021, there are 30 million people in three-dozen countries at the ‘emergency’ phase of food insecurity, just one step away from a declaration of famine. The greatest threat currently lies in Yemen, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and South Sudan. Among the most vulnerable groups are internally displaced people and refugees caught between the frontlines of hunger, many of whom are totally dependent on food assistance for their survival.
Some of the biggest drivers of famine are conflict and climate shocks. The World Food Programme (WFP) believes that, without an end to war and without the resources to address the impact of climate change, the challenge of eliminating global hunger will remain out of reach. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these threats, along with others including economic downturns, as food production and supplies are severely disrupted and unemployment surges.
WFP has been at the forefront of global famine response since it was founded nearly 60 years ago. Across those six decades, we have led or taken part in dozens of famine-response operations, saving millions of lives. We have also prevented famine, for example in war-torn Yemen where a massive scale-up of WFP operations brought the country back from the brink in 2018.
Today, WFP’s food assistance continues to provide a lifeline for millions of men, women and children. We combine deep-field presence, innovation and technology to identify, anticipate, respond and warn the world about the threat of famine.
WFP’s operational footprint and logistical expertise underpin our key role in humanitarian partnerships, such as the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which rapidly assesses and acts on potential hunger crises. Our Hunger Map Live tracks and predicts areas and communities under threat, while the Emergency Service Marketplace distributes life-saving supplies where normal channels are disrupted.
Through these efforts, with support from our donors and in partnership with other humanitarian organizations, we can stop hunger in its tracks and pull communities back from the brink of starvation.