Climate change is ‘increasing hunger’ in Africa: United Nations

As COP27 delegates in Egypt discuss greenhouse emissions, the United Nations said on Wednesday, the climate crisis is exacerbating devastating hunger in many African countries and will only worsen without urgent action.

“If drastic measures are not taken urgently, hunger will increase as climate change appears everywhere, and intensified in vulnerable regions, such as Sudan,” said Zitouni Weld Dada, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned earlier this month that Sudan is among East African countries facing “severe food insecurity”, highlighting the dire situation, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

As the COP27 summit opens, a joint statement from more than a dozen major UN agencies and charities warns that the Horn of Africa is suffering from the “longest and most severe drought in modern history”, warning that parts of Somalia are “expected to face famine”.

Also read: An Open Letter to African Leaders: Do More to Solve the Continent’s Hunger Crisis

Africa is home to some of the countries least responsible for carbon emissions but hardest hit by the onslaught of extreme weather events.

Sudan, like many other countries on the continent, has been hit hard in recent years by erratic weather patterns – severe droughts and sweltering temperatures followed by torrential rains.

About a third of the population, more than 15 million people, will need assistance next year, the highest level in more than a decade, according to the World Food Programme.

– ‘Takes political will’ –

Ould Dada, deputy director of the FAO’s Climate and Environment Division, said the climate summit in Egypt, billed as the “African Conference of the Parties,” should be the venue where food security for the continent is addressed.

Ould Dada added that despite the continent’s vast resources, many countries depend on food imports.

“It does not make sense for Africa to import 40 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine while it itself is rich in resources,” he said on the sidelines of climate talks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“It takes political will to fight global poverty and hunger.”

FAO recently approved a $10 million project with the Sudanese Forestry Authority to help support farmers, including by protecting gum arabic trees — which provide a key ingredient for soft drinks — to combat rapid desertification.

Sudan is already suffering from what experts and activists say is a result of changing weather patterns: an exacerbation of conflicts over scarce land and water resources.

Although linking planet heating to conflict is complex, the International Crisis Group describes climate change as a “threat multiplier” that increases “food insecurity, water scarcity and competition for resources, while disrupting livelihoods and spurring migration.”

Sudan is the fifth country in the world most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to the 2020 rankings in the Global Adaptation Index, prepared by the University of Notre Dame in the United States.

Growing demands on dwindling natural resources have fueled inter-ethnic conflict in Sudan, including the 2003 war that raged in the arid western region of Darfur.

Also read: Reuse Leftovers: How to Feed a Hungry SA

While a peace agreement for Darfur was concluded in 2020 with the main rebel groups, violence continues.

With agriculture and livestock accounting for 43 percent of employment and 30 percent of GDP, conflicts over livestock and access to water and land continue.

According to the United Nations, 800 people have been killed this year and more than 260,000 displaced in conflict across Sudan.

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