United Nations’ flagship food security report – Hunger Hotspots – FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity has added added in the list of hotspot countries
compared to the January 2022 edition of this report.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in 20 countries or situations (including two regional clusters) – called hunger hotspots – during the outlook period from June to September 2022. Acute food insecurity globally continues to escalate. The recently published 2022 Global Report on Food Crises alerts that 193 million people were facing Crisis or worse (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC]/Cadre Harmonisé [CH] Phase 3 or above) across 53 countries or territories in 2021. This increase must be interpreted with care, given that it can be attributed to both a worsening acute food insecurity situation and a substantial (22 percent) expansion in the population analysed between 2020 and 2021. In addition, an all-time high of up to 49 million people in 46 countries could now be at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions, unless they receive immediate life and livelihoods-saving assistance. This includes 750 000 people already in Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5).

To identify hunger hotspots, FAO and WFP have assessed how key drivers of acute food insecurity are likely to evolve and have combined effects across countries in the coming months, and the related risks of deteriorations.

In Asia, a strong economic recovery since the end of 2020 has been slowed down by renewed supply-chain disruptions and emerging macroeconomic difficulties in several countries, including Sri Lanka.

The domestic agricultural production and rising international prices, compounded by the ongoing economic crisis, are expected to increase acute food shortages and price inflation which in turn are likely to result in a further deterioration of food security over the next months. Sri Lanka has been hit by its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. The secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tax cuts introduced shortly before its inception have gravely affected the sustainability of the debt load accumulated by the country over the previous decade. The economic crisis has been also indirectly worsened by the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on already elevated global food and energy prices. The country’s current account deficit has widened while its foreign exchange reserves have dwindled, resulting in a dramatic currency devaluation, rising food prices and food shortages. In addition, the current economic crisis is increasingly affecting unemployment and household incomes, complicating access to essential items. Rising costs of food, fuel and imported commodities combined with supply chain disruptions and a weakening exchange rate are expected to drive inflation higher in 2022. Availability of food in the outlook period is likely to decrease.

The harvest of the country’s main staple, “Maha” paddy crop, is estimated at a below-average level, mainly due to a ban on the import of chemical fertilizers and pesticides imposed by the authorities between April and November 2021.115 Therefore, Sri Lanka will increasingly rely on imports to cover domestic needs, but the ability to purchase imported supplies will be constrained by a further depreciation of the local currency. On the political front, the worsening economic crisis has led to country-wide protests. Concerns are mounting over increasing levels of political tension, which could in turn affect the economic trajectory.116 Reduced income and increased food prices affect households’ ability to afford sufficient and adequate food. While representative data on food security is not available, a March–April survey with small sample size117 indicated that almost all households have been using food-related coping strategies and almost half of households have been eating less preferred or cheaper food daily. Around one-third of households in rural and urban areas are applying emergency livelihood coping strategies.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Anticipatory actions

• Seek multilateral and bilateral aid to import and provide chemical fertilizers along with organic fertilizers for the summer growing season and agricultural inputs such as vegetable seeds to vulnerable smallholder farmers.

• Supply high-nutrient animal feed and veterinary health kits to livestock owners including those who have cattle and poultry to mitigate the impacts of the feed shortage from the economic crisis.

• Provide unconditional cash to also support farmers with green gram production as a mid-season short-cycle crop to support food production. If feasible, conduct cash-for-work activities to improve paddy storage and community infrastructure to support daily wage earners and labourers.

OTHER KEY ACTIONS

• Implement continued monitoring and analysis of food security indicators through fact-finding missions and scenario planning to ensure that the government and the humanitarian community are abreast of the food security situation in order to ensure that emergency assistance can be delivered efficiently. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) will take place in the country in July.

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