Hunger Across Africa

How drought and conflict have put millions on the verge of famine

Across a vast swath of Africa, millions face starvation. Drought, conflict and disease have led to the continent’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades. In South Sudan, 1.6 million people have fled to nearby countries to escape war and find food. In Somalia, thousands of families have moved from their villages to camps for the displaced. In Nigeria, 450,000 children face acute malnutrition after years of attacks by the terror group Boko Haram. Here, VOA provides ongoing coverage of the disaster, its causes and the humanitarian response.

April 13, 2017

Thousands of Drought-Stricken Somalis Stream Into Camps

Thousands of Somali people affected by severe drought and a potential famine in the countryside continue to stream into the country's main cities. Hungry, malnourished children and families are pouring into squalid camps outside Mogadishu. Among the IDPs are parents whose children starved to death before their eyes as they walked for days seeking food. Read more.

March 21, 2017

East Africa Summit to Focus on Refugees, Food Concerns

East African leaders attending the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Kenya this week are expected to talk about Somali refugees and regional security. However, there are doubts that IGAD has what it takes to ease the crisis in the region. The Kenya State House spokesperson, Manoah Esipisu, said the repatriation of Somali refugees will be the main agenda item at the summit. Read more.

March 6, 2017

Conflict in Somalia Impacts Future Drought Resistance

This is not Somalia's first drought and it likely won't be its last. The government announced Saturday that 110 people had died in a two-day period due to drought-induced famine, particularly in the Bay and Bakol regions, highlighting the need not just for rapid emergency response to this crisis, but also long-term solutions to prevent food insecurity. Read more.

Mapping the Threat

The IPC Phases

  1. Phase 1. Up to 20 percent of households must use unsustainable methods to meet essential food and non-food needs. Longterm, new strategies are needed to avert malnutrition.
  2. Phase 2. Despite humanitarian assistance, at least 20 percent of households cannot get enough food without meeting other non-food needs through unsustainable methods.
  3. Phase 3. Despite humanitarian assistance, at least 20 percent of households either experience stretches of acute malnutrition or must deplete assets to meet food needs, leading to gaps in food consumption.
  4. Phase 4. Despite humanitarian assistance, at least 20 percent of households either experience significant stretches of acute malnutrition and excess mortality or see the extreme loss of assets, leading to gaps in food consumption and acute malnutrition.
  5. Phase 5. Despite humanitarian assistance, at least 20 percent of households experience an extreme lack of food, leading to starvation and death. Phase 5 of the IPC represents the minimum threshold for famine. There are degrees of famine characterized by an increasing death rate and more rampant starvation.

Move the levels left and right to update the map. Only countries with IPC levels in the specified range will appear. Source: FEWS.NET

What the IPC Phases Mean

The Integrated Phase Classification scale defines levels of food insecurity. Each phase of the scale represents more urgent nutritional needs. At the low end, members of a community are only able to meet their basic nutritional needs through unsustainable methods. Long term changes are needed to avoid starvation and death. At the high end of the scale, starvation and death have already occurred. Immediate humanitarian assistance is needed, and long term strategies for sustainable food production and consumption must also be achieved.

The IPC scale serves to both identify current humanitarian crises and call attention to crises likely to materialize in the absence of humanitarian assistance and/or better governance. The scale also shows that, once food insecurity reaches a certain level, suffering and loss of life cannot be prevented, even with humanitarian assistance.

Recent News

VOA reporters across the continent provide up-to-date coverage of the crisis.

  1. April 21, 2017 Congressman, Senator Concerned About Somalia Aid Cuts
  2. April 18, 2017 WFP Warns of Severe Funding Shortfall for Nigeria's Hungry
  3. April 17, 2017 US Senator Wants Aid Maintained to South Sudan
  4. April 12, 2017 New Humanitarian Corridor Opens Between Sudan and South Sudan
  5. April 11, 2017 Risk of Death from Starvation Grows in Africa

Root Causes

Explore the root causes and contributing factors behind Africa’s deadliest food shortages in years.

  1. April 20, 2017South Sudan Chaos Impedes Humanitarian Aid Work
  2. March 27, 2017Experts Say Climate Change May Be Making African Drought Worse
  3. March 21, 2017Civic Group: Above Normal Rainfall in Zimbabwe Not Worth Cheering
  4. March 17, 2017UN: South Sudan is World’s Fastest-growing Refugee Crisis

Responses & Solutions

Track emergency interventions and long-term remedies designed to save lives.

  1. March 28, 2017Somaliland Hospital Cares for Malnourished From Drought
  2. March 20, 2017Zimbabwe Appeals for $200 Million for Flood Recovery
  3. March 20, 2017Africa Aid Officials Concerned at Proposed US Aid Cuts
  4. March 20, 2017Ben Stiller Leads Online Somalia Aid Campaign

Country Reports

In three countries — Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia — food insecurity has reached emergency levels, and famine has been declared in part of South Sudan. Each of these countries has experienced years of devastating conflict, and ongoing violence and instability continue to limit access to humanitarian aid.


Northeastern Nigeria faces acute food shortages due in large part to years of attacks by Boko Haram. The terror group has displaced millions, including farmers who have missed multiple planting and harvesting seasons. The U.N. estimates that 450,000 children face acute malnutrition in the conflict area.


Somalia is rebuilding its civil and military institutions after 20 years of conflict. Challenges abound as the extremist group al-Shabab continues to control some regions and conducts regular attacks designed to cause many deaths. Conflict has left the country unprepared for an extended drought, and now more than half its population — 6.2 million people — face food insecurity, according to the U.N.

South Sudan

In Africa’s youngest country, a civil war has displaced millions of people, and warring parties have prevented humanitarian organizations from reaching people who need food. The U.N. reports that 270,000 children are severely malnourished, and over 5 million people are food insecure.