News & Media / The Climate Crisis and Food Insecurity in Africa

The Climate Crisis and Food Insecurity in Africa

11 October, 2022

Food insecurity and undernourishment have been rising constantly in Africa since 2014, reaching a peak of almost 800 million food insecure and almost 300 million undernourished people on the continent in 2021. Besides conflict and economic slowdowns, climate change is a key driver of food insecurity on the continent, shrinking crop yields and productivity while agricultural productivity growth has already been reduced by -34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than in any other region.

As the Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in over 40 years, the impact of the climate crisis on Africa’s food systems are becoming ever more apparent and heavily felt on the continent.

Compared to 2021, cereal production in Africa is down by -4.0% in 2022 – largely caused by droughts in Northern Africa.

Food insecurity and undernourishment in Africa are increasing

  • In 2021, 794.7 million people in Africa, equivalent to almost 60% of the continent’s population, experienced moderate or severe food insecurity and 278.0 million people in Africa were undernourished, equivalent to more than one-fifth of the continent’s population.

    • Of the continent’s food insecure people, 558.4 million (70.3%) face severe food insecurity. This is almost one-quarter of the continent’s total population (23.4%).

  • More than two-thirds of the world’s food insecure and undernourished people (34.4% and 36.3% respectively) live in Africa.

  • The prevalence of food insecurity and undernourishment in Africa is the highest of any world region.

  • Both food insecurity and undernourishment in Africa have risen almost continuously between 2014 and 2021.

    • Food insecurity (+13.5 percentage points): only South America has seen a larger increase.

    • Undernourishment (+4.6 percentage points): a bigger increase than in any other region.

Africa: Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity & prevalence of undernourishment (2014-2021)

Food insecurity & undernourishment in Africa

Source: MIF based on FAO

Almost one-quarter of the continent’s total population is suffering from severe food insecurity.

Highest prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity (2019-2021)

Highest prevalence of undernourishment (2019-2021)

Largest increase in moderate or severe food insecurity (since 2014-2016)

Largest increase in undernourishment (since 2014-2016)

Congo Republic (88.7%)

Central African Republic (52.2%)

Nigeria (+23.8 percentage points)

Gambia (+10.6 percentage points)

Sierra Leone (86.7%)

Madagascar (48.5%)

Mauritania (+19.0 percentage points)

Ethiopia (+10.1 percentage points)

South Sudan (86.4%)

DR Congo (39.8%)

Kenya (+18.8 percentage points)

Madagascar (+8.3 percentage points)

Central African Republic (81.3%)

Liberia (38.3%)

Zambia (+18.3 percentage points)

Niger (+7.4)

Malawi (81.3%)

Rwanda (35.8%)

Mauritius (+15.2 percentage points)

Congo Republic (+6.4)


Source: MIF based on FAO

What are food security and hunger?

Food security means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity can be experienced at different levels of severity, from mild to moderate and severe.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) provides a common scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and acute malnutrition. It defines acute food insecurity as food deprivation that threatens lives or livelihoods, regardless of the causes, context or duration. The level of acute food insecurity is assessed along five severity categories (phases): No/Minimal (Phase 1), Stressed (Phase 2), Crisis (Phase 3), Emergency (Phase 4), and Catastrophe/Famine (Phase 5).

Hunger is usually measured by the prevalence of undernourishment which means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet their daily minimum dietary energy requirements over a period of one year.

Facing food insecurity does not necessarily mean someone is experiencing undernourishment too. However, when someone is severely food insecure, they have run out of food and gone a day or more without eating and thus have most likely experienced hunger.

Over 100 million people in Africa are facing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity

Estimations conducted throughout 2022 show that across 32 African countries, at least 107.3 million people are facing crisis levels or worse of acute food insecurity. On top of this, in Ethiopia 20.4 million people are estimated to require food support.

  • Most people are affected in DR Congo (25.9 million), Nigeria (19.5 million), Sudan (11.7 million), South Sudan (7.7 million) and Somalia (7.1 million).

  • In five countries, more than one-quarter of the total population are in crisis level or worse: South Sudan (71.5%), Somalia (40.8%), Central African Republic (40.2%), DR Congo (26.6%) and Sudan (25.2%).

  • 87,000 people in South Sudan and 213,180 people in Somalia are expected to face catastrophic famine levels of food insecurity.

Africa: Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC/CH) scale (2022)

Conflict & food security

Source: MIF based on ACLED, Cadre Harmonisé, EM-DAT, FAO, IPC

More than two-thirds of the population in at least seven out of Africa’s eleven most disaster-prone countries experience food insecurity.

According to the World Bank, food security declines by 5-20% with each flood or drought.

The Horn of Africa is currently facing its worst drought since 1981, with around 20 million people experiencing hunger as a consequence.


Data for the map as well as for the population figures for the different IPC classifications are taken from three different sources:

  1. The IPC Population Tracking Tool
  2. Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET)
  3. Cadre Harmonisé (data accessed via UNOCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange HDX).

While all three data sources use the IPC Classification System to indicate the levels of food insecurity, time frames and the amount of information on affected population provided slightly differ between sources. In case of doubling information, the most recent and/or comprehensive information was chosen. Where information was missing (for example the population in a specific phase), it was complemented from another source. Thus, the time frames for the population figures might not completely align with the phases shown in the map and population figures and phases in the map for different countries might cover different time frames.

Data shown in the map were downloaded on 25 August 2022. A country is considered to have high levels of violence/conflict when at least 100 violent events (battles, explosions/remote violence, violence against civilians) in 2022 have been recorded by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) as per dataset downloaded on 25 August 2022.

Of the 32 countries with data on acute food insecurity:

  • 20 countries have faced at least one national disaster event in 2022 with more than half of them (11) being affected by a drought.

  • 15 have already seen at least 100 violent events in 2022.

    • Three of the countries among those with the highest number of acute food insecure people – DR Congo, Nigeria and Somalia – are also facing the largest levels of violence on the continent in 2022.

  • FAO has issued high price warnings for eight countries and moderate price warnings for two countries on the continent, indicating that the price of one or more basic food commodities is at abnormal high levels in main markets.

Rising food prices are hitting the many food import dependent countries on the continent hard

According to FAO, 33 African countries require external assistance for food, meaning they lack the resources to deal with the levels of food insecurity, concerning both the lack of food availability as well as the lack of access to food due to high food prices.

36 African countries are net food importers, leaving them susceptible to high global food prices.

At 29.6%, Africa has by far the highest cereal import dependency ratio out of all world regions, three times as high than Asia’s dependency ratio (8.3%).

Food price inflation in Africa is higher than globally and sits at 15.9% in 2022. Within the last decade, the average yearly food price inflation was 1.0%.

  • Sudan has the continent’s highest food price inflation in 2022 (143.0%), followed by Zimbabwe (67.1%), Ethiopia (41.7%), Angola (33.1%) and South Sudan (26.6%). It is also for these five countries that food price inflation has increased the most compared to 2013.

Africa & World: food price inflation (2013-2022)

Food price inflation

Source: MIF based on FAO

Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to spend $1.4 billion more on food imports but see a decline in volumes worth $0.9 billion.

Rising food prices are expected to be the largest exacerbating factor of climate change on poverty in Africa and climate change is forecasted to push an additional 78 million people into chronic hunger by 2050, over half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Price increases from January to May 2022 over January to May 2021

Food price increases 2021-2022

Source: MIF based on FAO

The war in Ukraine is exacerbating the food security crisis in Africa

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had an impact on global wheat supply chains, exacerbating food security concerns, particularly for Africa.

  • FAO’s Food Price Index reached an all-time high both globally and in Africa following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • In 2021, Russia and Ukraine accounted for over one-third (35.8%) of all of the continent’s wheat imports.

    • 36 African countries import wheat from Russia, of which 20 import at least 20% of their wheat from Russia.

    • 29 countries import wheat from Ukraine.

  • The war in Ukraine has also triggered price rises of fertilisers, energy and other agricultural input, increasing the costs of food production.

    • Rising prices of energy and fertilisers led to Africa’s food import bill to increase by more than +50% from 2020 to 2022.