Conflicts, climate-related shocks and displacement are leading to high levels of food insecurity in 39 countries, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued on Thursday.
Of the affected countries, 31 are in Africa and seven are in the Middle East or East Asia. Haiti is the lone Caribbean country highlighted in the report.
Civil conflicts and displacement are the leading causes of food insecurity in the Middle East and parts of Northern and Central Africa.
The ongoing conflict in Yemen – described by the U.N. as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster – has sparked fears of widespread famine, as an estimated 17.8 million people remain food insecure and require urgent humanitarian assistance.
Other Middle Eastern countries in need of international food assistance include Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria.
Food insecurity caused by internal conflicts in African nations like the Central African Republic have been exacerbated by poor agricultural output. About 2 million people – or about 43 percent of the population – are deemed to be in need of urgent assistance as several consecutive years of reduced crop production and civil war have taken a toll on the food supply.
Dry weather has most affected countries in Southern Africa, where poor rains have wreaked havoc on the production of key crops.
Reductions in cereal production – or grains used for food, such as wheat, oats, or corn – have been worst in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The FAO report warns that the number of food insecure people in Malawi could more than double from last year as crop production slows.
Insufficient rainfall has also curtailed crop production in the Middle East. Afghanistan and Syria have been the most affected by reduced crop production this year, compounding already dire humanitarian situations in the two conflict-ridden countries.