Hunger Across Africa

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

A mother feeds her child with a peanut-based paste for treatment of severe acute malnutrition in a UNICEF supported hospital in the capital Juba, South Sudan, January 25, 2017. Reuters.
The Latest Headlines
Photo for storyAid Groups Marshal Scarce Resources to Save Ethiopian Children

For 12 years, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has worked in Ethiopia's Somali region, providing medical care during droughts, floods and other types of emergencies that made food scarce and left people hungry.

Photo for storyAs US Pledges $639M, Aid Agencies Say Speed Key to Saving Lives

Aid agencies say they welcome the Trump administration's promise of nearly $640 million to help four countries dealing with rampant food insecurity but say the pledge is overdue and taking too long to reach the people who desperately need it.

Photo for storyWhite House Stance on South Sudan Unclear

Questions are surfacing over whether the Trump administration will continue to support South Sudan when the proposed White House budget seeks to cut nearly a third of the U.S. State Department budget and diminish funding for development projects and humanitarian aid in Africa.

Photo for storyFood Crises Getting Worse in Somalia, Kenya

Severe food crises are growing in Kenya and Somalia, as the Horn of Africa continues to receive below-normal rainfall, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Explainer: The World’s Largest Crisis In 70 Years

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.

Photo for story
July 20, 2017

Millions Going Hungry as Conflict-driven Food Prices Soar

The World Food Program warns millions of people around the world are going to bed on an empty stomach because the cost of feeding them is escalating due to conflict, instability and other complex emergencies. Read more.

Photo for story
July 14, 2017

Fall Armyworms on March Across Africa

A recently arrived species of armyworm has spread to 21 African countries and threatens the continent's main food staple, maize, report experts from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Read more.

Photo for story
July 14, 2017

Dire Food Insecurity in Five East African Countries Facing Drought

Five countries in East Africa face dire food insecurity after a third poor rainy season in a row, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday. Areas in five countries - Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda - received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall. Read more.

  1. July 10, 2017 White House Stance on South Sudan Unclear
  2. July 10, 2017 Food Crises Getting Worse in Somalia, Kenya
  3. June 30, 2017 Famine Alert in South Sudan Lifted, But Catastrophe Continues

Mapping the Threat

FEWS NET — the Famine Early Warning System Network — tracks food insecurity around the world. The project helps define how much hunger regions face by placing them on a five-point scale that ranges from minimal to catastrophic. Once food insecurity reaches famine levels, suffering and loss of life cannot be prevented, even with humanitarian assistance.

  1. Minimal. Up to 20 percent of households must take drastic steps to meet basic needs, for example, selling assets to pay for food or shelter.
  2. The remaining levels deal with challenges that affect at least 20 percent of households, despite the presence of humanitarian assistance.
  3. Stressed. Households cannot get enough food without meeting other non-food needs through unsustainable means.
  4. Crisis. Households either experience stretches of acute malnutrition or must deplete assets to meet food needs, leading to gaps in food consumption.
  5. Emergency. Households experience long stretches of acute malnutrition and excess mortality or see the extreme loss of assets.
  6. Catastrophe/Famine. Households experience an extreme lack of food, leading to starvation and death. When at least 20 percent of households in an area are affected, this phase represents the minimum threshold for famine. There are degrees of famine characterized by an increasing death rate and more rampant starvation.
Map of Africa Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity Map of food insecurity

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

Root Causes

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

  1. May 8, 2017WFP: Conflict, Drought, Major Drivers of Famine
  2. May 5, 2017Aid Group’s Leader Detained in South Sudan
  3. April 20, 2017South Sudan Chaos Impedes Humanitarian Aid Work
  4. March 27, 2017Experts Say Climate Change May Be Making African Drought Worse

Responses & Solutions

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

  1. May 4, 2017Africa Food Crisis Gets Attention at World Economic Forum
  2. May 4, 2017EU Force Maintains Pirate Watch Off Drought-stricken Somalia
  3. March 28, 2017Somaliland Hospital Cares for Malnourished From Drought
  4. March 20, 2017Africa Aid Officials Concerned at Proposed US Aid Cuts

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.