Forgotten Food Crises


2018 is shaping up to be another year characterized by conflict and hunger. The four countries at risk of famine in 2017 - Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - continue to experience high levels of hunger. Similarly, conflict and insecurity in Syria’s seven-year civil war and the Rohingya crisis continue to threaten the food security of their populations. Additionally, new additions have been made to the watch list—the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Food emergency map



Seven years on, the Syrian conflict has left millions of people in poverty and hunger. To date, 6.5 million people are food insecure and an additional 4 million people are at risk of becoming food insecure. As of January, WFP is providing food assistance to 3 million people. Continued fighting in a number of areas prevents humanitarian agencies from reaching those most in need. More funds are needed to provide continue food assistance to those who require it. Due to funding shortages, WFP are having to prioritize the most vulnerable.

Eastern Ghouta, Rural Damascus is an area of specific concern due to continued bombing campaigns that cause its 400,000 residents to live in extremely poor conditions with severe shortages of food, medicines, drinking water and fuel. Shortages of food have led to numerous cases of severe malnutrition.

Two convoys reached Eastern Ghouta in early March, bringing much needed wheat flour for 27, 500 people, nutritional products to treat malnourished children as well as food and supplies more generally. Commercial activity into this area stopped in mid-Feb after shelling destroyed warehouses owned by the only trader permitted to supply Eastern Ghouta with food. Since then, humanitarian assistance has been only source of food.



Yemen continues to be the world’s largest hunger crisis. Rising food prices have caused food to become unaffordable for many and are significantly impacting the food security and nutrition of its population. Here are the key figures:

  • 17.8 million people are food-insecure
  • An estimated 8.4 million people are severely food-insecure
  • An estimated 1.8 million children (aged 6 months- 5 years) are acutely malnourished
  • An estimated 400, 000 children (aged 6 months- 5 years) have severe acute malnutrition

A 30-day period for all humanitarian and commercial vessels to access Hodeidah and Salif ports came into force on 20 December, marking the end of a port blocade by the Saudi-led Coalition – this has allowed much-needed fuel and food to enter the country.  The humanitarian aid delivered during this period has been vital and, if the country is to avert famine, it is essential that the ports remain open as Yemen imports 90% of its food and fuel.


Rohingya Crisis:


While more than 90% of Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazar region receive food aid, more than half of the new arrivals have limited access to healthy food. As such, the WFP is planning to expand its e-voucher programme to reach all new arrivals. Additionally, the WFP is rapidly expanding its emergency nutrition programmes in response to high rates of malnutrition seen in this population with an estimated 24% of children (aged 6-59 months) in Kutupalong camp and 17% of newly arrived children reported to be acutely malnourished. The Kutupalong camp is becoming the largest camp in the world.

Key concerns highlighted by the WFP include:

  • Rohingya refugees are exposed to risks and vulnerable to gender-based violence
  • Kutupalong camp requires improved site management and infrastructure support to weather monsoon season
  • More needs to be done to better support host communities who face some of the same problems as refugees such as increased food prices and increased competition for jobs

WFP has been reaching an average of 700,000 Rohinga with food assistance each month (and as many as 880,000 in the last round of distributions). WFP requires US$26 million to scale up to reach as many 1 million refugees in Bangladesh by February.


The WFP is concerned about food insecurity and undernutrition in Rakhine State. The recent violence and displacement is thought to have negatively affected the already poor nutrition status of its population with damage to its agriculture and fishing livelihoods. Similarly, movement restrictions have prevented people from farming or fishing. In December, the WFP provided food assistance to 177,500 people. However UN agencies and humanitarian organisations continue to experience severe access constraints, hampering the delivery of aid relief.

Key challenges highlighted by WFP:

  • The needs of communities in Rakhine State are unclear. The humanitarian organization needs access in order to conduct needs assessments to determine the best way to assist this population.
  • Limited access for international staff and partners to the Rakhine State continues to delay relief efforts
  • The WFP requires funding to provide assistance for next six months


Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo

More than 750,000 people are still displaced due to insecurity in Kasai. As such, fleeing farmers have missed 3 consecutive planting seasons. This has resulted in an increase in food insecurity. This is significant as 90% of Kasai’s rural population rely completely on agriculture for food and income. Despite efforts by the WFP and international partners, food assistance is currently unable to meet the needs of the Kasai population. As of December, food assistance is only reaching 400,000 of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai.

Food insecurity is taking a toll on the nutrition of this population with 400,000 children under-five are suffering severe acute malnutrition. UNICEF warns that children are likely to die if they not receive health, nutrition, and water and sanitation support.  

The WFP warns that insufficient funding could result in a further deterioration of food security in Kasai.


Northeastern Nigeria

Due to violence and insecurity, the Northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have seen a mass displacement and migration of people. A reported 1.62 million displaced people are living in camps or host communities within Nigeria while tens of thousands are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. People are starting to return back to their homes and require humanitarian assistance.

Violence has also resulted in increased food insecurity with an estimated 450,000 children severely malnourished. The humanitarian response throughout 2017 managed to stave off famine but requires continued humanitarian response and funding through 2018.Continued insecurity, poor roads and population movements are some of the challenges faced by humanitarian responders.

Humanitarian assistance to Northeastern Nigeria is expected to end in May when operations run out of funds.



In 2017, Somalia has experienced looming famine in the aftermath of an unprecedented drought due to several failed rainy seasons. This situation was further compounded by continued conflict that forced many to flee their homes. The humanitarian community successfully averted a likely famine in 2017 with record high levels of funding- the largest amount contributed to Somalia in its history. These resources permitted humanitarian agencies to reach more than 3 million people each month with live-saving assistance. It was also able to contain two infectious disease outbreaks- measles and cholera.

However, OCHA warns that Somalia has not yet overcome the gravest threat in some areas of the country and the factors that caused its vulnerability and the need for life-saving assistance- drought-induced displacement, conflict and limited access to basic services- still persist and drive humanitarian needs in 2018.

As such, humanitarian aid must continue while an effort must be made to plan for and establish longer-term solutions that deal with the causes of vulnerability. This thinking is embodied in OCHA’s 2018 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan that aims to prioritize immediate relief operations in areas where a significant number of people are in Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phases 3 and 4). At the same time, humanitarians will work to address the underlying causes of recurring crises in Somalia.

Key figures:

  • 6.2 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian and protection assistance- of these 3.3 million require urgent assistance if we are to prevent famine in 2018
  • Food security needs are nearly double the five-year average with an estimated 2,444,000 people in Crisis (IPC Phase3) and 866,000 (IPC Phase4)
  • 1.2 million children are or could be malnourished in the next year, of which 232,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition
  • 2 million people are estimated to be internally displaced


South Sudan

The WFP has resumed the integrated rapid response mechanism (IRRM) and has seven team deploying life-saving food and nutrition assistance to 96,633 people, including 17,370 children under-five. The WFP will launch an additional 26 missions in the coming six weeks to increase its assistance to 400,000 people.

Key figures:

  • 1.9 million internally displaced people
  • 2 million South Sudanese refugees
  • 5.1 million people facing severe food insecurity from January-March 2018


Countries to watch:

  • Iraq – the WFP has been providing food and cash assistance to some 750,000 of the most food insecure people who are displaced. There are currently some 2.7 million displaced people living in camps and elsewhere. However, the Government has announced plans to close all the camps and for 2 million IDPs to return home by the time of parliamentary elections due to be held in May.


  • The Central African Republic (CAR) ranks last on the 2016 Human Development Index. Renewed sectarian violence in 2017 has led to the internal displacement of over 680,000 people while over half a million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. An estimated 2 million people are food insecure due to a 50 percent decrease in crop production by comparison with pre-violence levels.


Additional links:


#DontForgetFriday/Forgotten Food Crises

These resources constitute a call to action to global advocates on food, hunger and malnutrition to encourage them to raise awareness around the on-going global food crises. With the #DontForgetFriday, the Hub intends to start a global movement of people who highlight on-going food crises each week as to increase the visibility of these forgotten crises and increase pressure on parties to resolve these crises.

The information included in this food crisis update has been sourced from WFP and OCHA press releases and situation reports as of January 2018.

Please find resources below to promote key messages and information relating to the current state of food crises as well as previous updates. 

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