DAKAR (Reuters) – A record 49.5 million people are expected to go hungry in West and Central Africa next year due to a combination of conflict, climate change and high food prices, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
The figure is 4% higher than in 2023. In coastal countries, the number of people facing acute hunger is expected to reach 6.2 million in 2024, up 16% from this year, according to a new regional food security analysis released by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies.
“Acute hunger remains at record levels in the region, yet funding needed to respond is not keeping pace,” said Margot Vandervelden, WFP’s acting regional director for Western Africa.
“Insufficient funding means the moderately hungry will be forced to skip meals and consume less nutritious food, putting them at risk of falling back into crisis or emergency phases, perpetuating the cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” she said.
More than two out of three households in West and Central Africa cannot afford healthy diets, the analysis found.
The cost of a daily nutritious diet in the central Sahel countries Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is 110% higher than the daily minimum wage in the region, it said.
Sahel countries are facing an Islamist insurgency that has displaced some four million people from their homes and farms, according to U.N. figures. Democratic Republic of Congo also has multiple ongoing conflicts that have displaced nearly seven million.
The Sahel crisis has pushed people to seek refuge in neighbouring coastal countries such as Ivory Coast, Togo and Ghana, which is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a generation.
“Almost 80% of people who are currently in a difficult food situation are in areas affected by conflict,” said Ollo Sib, a senior research adviser for the WFP.
He warned that without intervention, the situation could deteriorate further in certain areas as over 2.6 million people were at risk of falling into famine.
(Reporting by Ngouda Dione; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Mark Potter)