If you’re a person responsible for buying food in 2023, you’re certainly familiar with the sinking feeling of seeing yet another price hike on your weekly essentials. For us in Canada, the idea of a “food crisis” is beginning to hit very close to home.
This food security situation stretches far beyond our local communities: the whole world now faces a massive global hunger crisis. While many of us are concerned and reassessing our budgets, families in much of the majority world are confronting catastrophic food shortages. In fragile contexts, disaster-prone areas and communities without safety nets, people are fighting for survival itself.
In the sections that follow, you’ll learn more about the food crisis around the world, which countries are worst affected and how you can help.
What does “food crisis” mean?
A food crisis is characterized by sharp increases in acute food insecurity and malnutrition within a short period of time. It can happen in part of a country, at the country level, or on a global scale.
Food crises are usually triggered by specific, often interrelated shocks, and they are more likely to happen where chronic food insecurity
is already threatening the right to nutrition
When assessing a country or region’s level of hunger, we use a set of internationally recognized standards
which measure food insecurity according to five phases. Each phase has its own criteria, progressing from “minimal” to “stressed” to “crisis,” “emergency” and finally the worst-case scenario, “famine
Understand more food crisis facts
with this article, which includes examples and how to help.
In Kimbanseke, Democratic Republic of the Congo, World Vision is supporting families affected by the food crisis through our Global Hunger Response. Livelihood Specialist Romanie Litanga hands Maman Caroline a can of palm oil, one of the items in the food kit she’s receiving. Photo: Didier Nagifi
What is causing the current global hunger crisis?
According to the Global Report on Food Crises
, nearly 258 million people in 58 countries/territories were experiencing acute food insecurity at crisis levels or worse in 2022. These numbers are the highest ever reported, increasing consecutively over the past four years.
The accelerating world hunger
is the product of several converging factors.
- Economic shocks and stressors—including lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine—have put pressure on national economies. With food cost inflation and rising fertilizer and fuel prices set against depreciating local currencies, poor countries are less economically resilient than they once were.
- Conflict and insecurity in many countries are forcing families from their homes, interrupting food production and economic activity. In many cases, conflict is making it difficult for organizations to provide humanitarian assistance.
- Weather extremes are wreaking havoc on communities. Recurring droughts, floods, tropical storms and global temperatures are all rising, which are compromising food production and people’s ability to meet their basic needs. (Read this article for a climate change overview.)
These challenges require immediate action from the international community. Food assistance and other life-saving support
are needed to prevent the deaths of thousands of people in the short term, along with disaster preparedness and sustainable solutions to combat global-scale hunger and malnutrition.
What countries are suffering the most from the food crisis?
The countries below are experiencing the most dire and catastrophic food crises in the world. They are listed as hunger hotspots
of “highest concern” and “very high concern” by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). They are also profiled in the most recent Global Report on Food Crises
Children and families in these countries face crisis conditions of food insecurity or worse, meaning they either have high or above-usual acute malnutrition, or they are just
able to get enough food—but only through emergency coping strategies like selling off livestock, which often undercuts their ability to make a living in the future.
Several of these countries also have populations experiencing hunger at emergency and famine levels. These are catastrophic situations in desperate need of the world’s support, and World Vision’s global response is helping families
in many areas.
- 19.9 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: conflict, high food prices, floods and drought
Afghanistan has been consistently classified among the world’s 10 worst food crises since 2016 when the Global Report on Food Crises launched—and the situation continues to deteriorate. In 2017, a quarter of the population was experiencing crisis conditions or worse. In 2023, the projection grew to 46 per cent—among the highest numbers in the world.
The UN reports that two thirds of the population were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023
—almost triple the number reported in 2021. Providing assistance to Afghan families has been challenging for many reasons, including armed conflict, the direct targeting of humanitarian resources, and high fuel prices.*
Alongside the lingering effects of decades of conflict, families in Afghanistan face economic challenges, an influx of refugees from Sudan, pest and livestock disease outbreaks and weather extremes—in 2023, 25 of the country’s 34 provinces reported severe or catastrophic drought, while unseasonal flooding damaged crops in 21 provinces.
Learn about World Vision’s work in Afghanistan.
In Herat, Afghanistan, a mother who received food assistance from World Vision prepares a meal for her blind son and elderly husband. Photo: World Vision Afghanistan
- 25.3 million people** suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices
Nigeria has consistently been counted among the 10 worst food crisis countries as well—particularly the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, known as the BAY states. The Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern states and more recent banditry and conflict between farmers and pastoralists in the country’s northern and central states have been key factors in the crisis.
Years of insecurity in Nigeria has hampered families’ economic opportunities and ability to invest in their livelihoods, with civilian kidnapping and killings, market disruptions and widespread displacement. In February 2023, approximately 3.1 million people were displaced
in the country’s northern regions.
The number of people suffering acute food insecurity in Nigeria has continually increased since 2019. A currency crisis and fuel shortage are making things worse, raising food and transportation costs. In March 2023, inflation in Nigeria was the highest it had been since 2005.
- 6.5 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: recurring drought, high food and water prices, and conflict
A three-year drought—called the “longest and most severe in recent history” by FAO and WFP—is devastating Somalia. As of October 2022, 3.8 million livestock had died, with families facing six consecutive poor harvests. More than 43,000 excess deaths were estimated in 2022, half of them children under five. Now, over 40,000 people are facing famine
Somalia has a long history of food crises. A famine declared in 2011
caused the death of nearly 260,000 people. And in 2017, declaration of another famine was prevented only through major humanitarian assistance.
Unfortunately, between 2018 and 2022, the number of people facing crisis conditions or worse more than doubled. Families now have limited access to food and income sources, while the costs of basic necessities are at record-setting highs. More than 1.3 million people have been forced from their homes, with outbreaks of cholera and measles because of poor water, sanitation and nutrition. Ongoing conflict is predicted to continue, hurting livelihood activities, access to markets and trade.
Learn about World Vision’s work in Somalia.
Seven-month-old Hamdi receives treatment for severe malnutrition in Baidoa, Somalia, where Global Affairs Canada is helping to support World Vision’s response to the global hunger crisis. Photo: Gwayi Patrick
- 7.8 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: floods, dry spells, conflict, macroeconomic challenges
In 2023, two thirds of South Sudan’s people were projected to face crisis levels of acute food security or worse, including 2.9 million facing emergency levels and 43,000 facing famine. These are the highest levels ever—worse than the hunger recorded at the height of the country’s civil war
A weak local currency, national food shortages, limited incomes, displacement and soaring prices are making life impossible for families.
The causes are interconnected—nearly a decade of conflict
has left its mark on the country’s economy, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and effects of the conflict in Ukraine. Four years of unprecedented flooding has driven people from their homes, destroyed livelihoods and made land virtually unusable, with a fallout for the country’s oil production as well.
Despite the extension of a transitional government, conflict and civilian attacks continue. This insecurity also disrupts markets and trade, while limiting people’s ability to access their fields or earn income.
Learn about World Vision’s work in South Sudan.
In Malakal, South Sudan, a food distribution partnership between World Vision and the UN World Food Programme ensures refugees and returnees escaping conflict in Sudan receive rice, oil and nutrition supplements for their young children. Photo: Scovia Faida Charles
- 17.4 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse in 2022
- Key causes: economic crisis and conflict
Yemen is ranked the second least peaceful country
in the world. Its nine-year conflict remains one of the deadliest for civilians by global measures. As of December 2022, two out of every three people
in the country needed humanitarian assistance—more than half of them children.
It is also one of the most food-insecure countries
, among the five worst food crises worldwide. In 2022, 55 per cent of the population faced crisis conditions or worse, including 31,000 facing famine.
Life is precarious in Yemen. The country imports more than 85 per cent of its food, leaving people at the mercy of the global economy. And while the country’s geography limits agricultural production, rural families depend on farming to survive. Erratic weather including drought conditions, rising temperatures and heavy rainfall have put that livelihood at risk. Meanwhile, rising costs, constrained humanitarian access and a depreciated local currency have made it yet more difficult to access food.
A ceasefire agreement remained in place for several months in 2022, but was not extended, and security remains very volatile. Conditions here are particularly difficult for women and girls
- 4.9 million people** suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: organized violence, economic deterioration, reduced rainfall and hurricanes
While Haiti has long been a country with food concerns, the crisis has been escalating since 2018, driven by brutal violence and insecurity, years of natural disaster—including the 2021 earthquake
—and spiralling economic conditions.
Gang violence reached extremely high levels in 2022, limiting the movement of people and goods in Port-au-Prince, and inflation hit a 20-year high of over 30 per cent in July 2022.
As the situation deteriorates, half of the population analysed in Haiti is projected to face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse—including approximately 1.8 million people facing emergency levels. The number of Haitian children suffering life-threatening malnutrition
is projected to grow by 30 per cent, to more than 115,000.
Learn about World Vision’s work in Haiti.
The Sahel (Burkina Faso and Mali)
- 3.5 million people in Burkina Faso and 1.2 million people in Mali suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: conflict, high food prices and flooding
Conflict, displacement and increasing food costs in Mali and Burkina Faso have created what the UN calls “already catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity
” in the Sahel region.
The crisis is concentrated in conflict-affected areas of both countries: Boucle du Mouhoun and Sahel regions in Burkina Faso, and Menaka region in Mali. More than 680,000 people are projected to suffer emergency levels of acute food insecurity and 45,201 face famine.
Increasing violence, including attacks against civilians by non-state armed groups, have forced families to flee their homes. People cannot move freely, access markets or make their living.
Zoenabo recounts the violence that drove her family from their home in northern Burkina Faso. “Our village was totally destroyed. When armed groups came, they killed, they burned the granaries, the shops, everything. We had to flee again because there was nothing left to eat.” Photo: Noelie Wendpanga Sawadogo
- 19.1 million people expected to suffer acute food insecurity or worse
- Key causes: conflict and economic collapse
Escalating violence that began in Khartoum and spread across Sudan beginning in April 2023 has led to a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe
. The UN reports that 24.7 million people
–half of the population–need urgent protection and assistance. Hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed, and thousands injured, while more than 2.1 million people have fled their homes.
Sudan was already facing a protracted crisis before this outbreak, with economic deterioration, hunger, intercommunal conflicts, disease and climate events. Now, an additional 2.5 million people are expected to fall into hunger. More than 3 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished.
This fighting has limited access to all basic services, markets and supply chains, and the price of commodities has spiked. These challenges—along with the anticipated recurring floods and drought—will have a significant affect on the country’s already-high levels of food security.
Learn more about the Sudan crisis and how World Vision is responding.
- 8.6 million people** suffering acute food insecurity or worse in 2022
- Key causes: economic and political crisis, 2022 floods
Pakistan has been defined as a “major” food crisis since 2017. In 2022, 43 per cent of the population analyzed were experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity.
In June 2022—on the tail of heatwaves and shortages of irrigation water and fertilizer—Pakistan was hit with devastating monsoons. Flooding and landslides damaged 3.3 million acres of farmland, killing 0.8 million livestock. The damage and economic losses were estimated at US $30 billion
and by October 2022, over 7.9 million people were still displaced from their homes.
This disaster—compounded by the country’s growing instability, mounting debt, high commodity prices, and inflation—has put additional strain on the ability of families to feed themselves.
Central African Republic
- 3 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: conflict, high food prices, floods and drought
Despite the fact that the Central African Republic is a fertile country
, with rich soil and the ability to grow abundant crops, nearly half its people are expected to experience crisis levels of food insecurity or worse in 2023, including 807,000 facing emergency levels.
Conflict is a major cause
of this crisis, limiting people’s ability to access land for farming, hunting and gathering. In 2023, 483,000 people were internally displaced, and the UN warned that more than half the country’s population requires assistance and protection, including 2.4 million whose needs are “so severe and complex
that their survival and dignity is at risk.”
Floods in some areas of the country and drought in others have seriously affected family livelihoods. Meanwhile, inflation has sent staple food prices 25 per cent above their previous norms.
Learn more about the conflict in the Central African Republic and how World Vision is responding.
- 23.6 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse in 2022
- Key causes: drought, subnational conflict and macroeconomic challenges
Over the past seven years, Ethiopia has remained one of the world’s 10 largest food crises. The number of people experiencing crisis conditions or worse doubled between 2020 and 2021 and hit unprecedented levels in 2022.
The crisis is expected to continue, resulting from five consecutive seasons of low rain, protracted conflict and global economic shocks. Since the drought that began in 2020, crop and livestock losses—including the death of seven million animals valued at over US $1.5 billion—have decimated family livelihoods.
Conflict in Tigray
, Amhara and Afar have created particular food insecurity, displacement and economic destruction in those regions, with impacts across the whole country. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian birr has continued to depreciate. In March 2023, food inflation was estimated at 34.2 per cent, more than three times higher than pre-pandemic levels
Learn about World Vision’s work in Ethiopia.
- 5.4 million people** suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: recurring drought and high food prices
Kenya is susceptible to extreme climate events. Conflict over the country’s resulting scarce resources—along with global economic shocks—have created a food crisis.
Five seasons of low rain and prolonged drought in the region since 2020 have led to the death of 2.6 million livestock, poor harvests, outbreaks of disease and record-breaking admissions into malnutrition programs
. Since 2021, the number of people facing emergency levels of food insecurity increased nearly fourfold—from 368,000 to 1.2 million.
In addition to a deteriorating economy, increases in cattle raiding and other violence have multiplied the number of conflict-related fatalities and disrupted people’s income-earning activities.
Learn about World Vision’s work in Kenya.
Lolii collects water with her children. In their community in northern Kenya, drought and water shortages have forced families to draw from unsafe sources. Photo: Martin Muluka
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- 24.5 million people** suffering acute food insecurity or worse (projected)
- Key causes: conflict
The UN has called the humanitarian crisis in the DRC
a “classic example of a forgotten emergency.” The country has suffered one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts, which has forced 6.2 million people from their homes—the highest number of displaced people in Africa.
Increases in food and fuel prices, weather extremes like flooding caused by climate change, crop disease and pest attacks, and the effects of COVID-19 along with epidemics like Ebola have all added to the current food crisis.
In 2023, 2.8 million people are projected to experience emergency levels of food insecurity.
Learn about World Vision’s work in the DRC.
- 12.1 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse in 2022
- Key causes: protracted economic crisis, earthquakes, conflict and erratic rainfall
In February 2023, two magnitude 7.8 and 6.3 earthquakes struck northwest Syria and southern Türkiye. The quakes killed nearly 6,000 people in Syria, devastating infrastructure, essential services and assets and creating major disruptions for agricultural production and food security.
Even before the earthquakes struck
, the country’s food security was precarious, with more than half the population facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse in 2022.
Syria’s long-running conflict has created the largest refugee crisis
of our time. The country’s internally displaced population is the highest in the world, at 6.8 million. Certain regions of the country remain volatile, disrupting economic activities and hindering humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, the national currency has depreciated as food costs increase and fuel shortages make agricultural production yet more challenging.
In 2023, approximately 5.9 million children and women needed nutrition assistance
—an 18 per cent increase from 2022.
Learn about World Vision’s work in Syria.
- 15.2 million people suffering acute food insecurity or worse in 2022
- Key drivers: conflict and high prices
Conflict in Myanmar began in 2021 as a civilian resistance to military takeover. Since then, the protracted crisis has led to high civilian casualties, forcing families from their homes and limiting their ability to produce food and earn income.
Like many other countries, global shocks have contributed to a depreciating currency and rising food and fuel prices. In July 2022, the cost of agricultural fertilizers was 90 per cent and 75 per cent higher than the previous year, placing impossible strain on farmers.
Cyclone Mocha, which hit Myanmar in May 2023, compounded the crisis. Flooding and landslides washed away thousands of homes and caused major infrastructure damage.
Learn about World Vision’s work in Myanmar.
A family in Myanmar struggles to rebuild their home in the wake of Cyclone Mocha. Photo: Swe Nyein
Why we need to respond to hunger crises before “famine” is declared
The famine that devastated Somalia in 2011 was a watershed moment for the international community, with the world vowing to “never again” allow such a tragedy to unfold. Nearly 260,000 people died
—half of them children younger than five years old. And 43 per cent of those deaths happened before the criteria were met
to declare famine.
Areas experiencing crisis and emergency levels of hunger need urgent support. These populations already have above-average mortality and compromised health. Families are making impossible choices—selling off farm equipment, going without medical care, pulling their children out of school—just so they can eat enough right now
. These short-term coping mechanisms have long-term consequences like acute malnutrition, perpetuated cycles of poverty and increased reliance on external assistance.
Yet—even now—the world seems to wait for “famine” to be declared in a region before fully mobilizing.
This hesitation costs lives, and it comes with higher financial cost as well. Evidence shows that there are significant economic gains when we respond proactively
How is World Vision taking action in the hunger crisis?
The global World Vision Partnership has responded to this worldwide emergency with a US $2 billion appeal—the largest in our organization’s 70-year history. Our Global Hunger Response
is providing urgent support in 28 countries that are experiencing acute hunger and the threat of famine, and donors in Canada are playing a critical role in this effort.
Since March 2021***:
- More than 21 million people have been reached, including nearly 12 million girls and boys.
- Over 15.7 million people have received in-kind food support or cash and voucher assistance to meet their urgent food needs.
- More than 50,000 children have recovered from severe acute malnutrition.
- 2 million people now have access to clean, safe water.
- Over 60,000 households have been provided with agricultural assets to support their livelihoods.
What can you do to help?
You can help fight the global hunger crisis in multiple ways.
by reading about the state of hunger and nutrition around world.
Join our global response
as we support children and families through initiatives like:
- Providing emergency food to directly address hunger and price shocks.
- Improving access to food.
- Providing clean water.
- Ensuring access to nutrition and health services.
- Keeping the most vulnerable safe.
Incorporate sustainable food practices and climate change solutions
in your own life.
Support food security here in Canada by giving to a food bank in your area
*Since the de facto authorities took control of Afghanistan’s government in August 2021, World Vision Canada and other NGOs used to be unable to support activities in the country because of Canada’s criminal code. We have been working persistently in coalition with partner organizations to see this code changed.
**The numbers listed are reflective of the percentage of the country’s population that could be analyzed in 2023.
***Results as of the time of publishing, through the World Vision Partnership Global Hunger Response.