A woman carries an infant as she queues in line for food, at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary shelter for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

Conflict, climate change and rising food and fuel prices are pushing about a quarter of Africans towards hunger, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday.

About 346 million people in Africa are facing severe food insecurity, meaning they have likely experienced hunger, in the worst crisis since 2017. Last year, the figure was about 286 million.

“The acute food insecurity situation in many of the countries where we are working – and people are already affected by armed conflict – is tipping into famine-like conditions,” said Dominik Stillhart, ICRC’s global operations director.

Two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region has left millions facing famine-like conditions and created a hunger crisis in neighbouring regions.

Insurgencies in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria have also deepened food insecurity in West Africa, which now faces its worst food crisis on record.

Many of countries dealing with conflict are also among the most severely affected by climate change, including South Sudan and Somalia, said Stillhart.

About 90% of Somalia is currently affected by drought, said Stillhart. If this year’s rains do not materialise, 1.4 million children under five will be acutely malnourished, the United Nations World Food Programme has said.

In February alone, drought killed 650,000 livestock, devastating the scores of Somalis for whom the animals represented income, safety nets and savings.

Meanwhile, global food and fuel prices are sky-rocketing, in part because of the war in Ukraine, Stillhart said.

Prices for wheat, of which Russia and Ukraine are both leading producers, have retreated from all-time highs hit last month but remain 70% higher than April 2021. Corn and oil prices have also surged.

“Our call today really is that the attention on the plight of the people of the people in Ukraine – which is of course terrible – should not prevent the world from looking at other crises,” said Stillhart.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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