Food Crises in Africa in the Last 30 Years

Food Crisis

Food crises in Africa in the second half of the 20th century were caused by a combination of multiple factors, however, all were preceded by failed harvests due weather extremes causing shortage of food. Millions of people were affected by malnutrition and thousands died from starvation despite the relief efforts by the international community. The severest food crises in Africa in the last 30 years were:

1983-1985 Famine in Ethiopia. The food crisis that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s and claimed hundreds of thousands lives is traditionally ascribed to drought although it has also been suggested that climate change played a role in one of the worst famines in the recent history. The situation was further worsened by the civil war which made access to the affected regions difficult for both the government and the international aid workers.

2005 Malawian Food Crisis. Ongoing drought resulting in failed harvests was also the cause of the 2005 Malawian Food Crisis in the south-eastern African country of Malawi. That year, only 37% of maize needed to feed the population was produced. The 2005 Malawi Food Crisis was not as dramatic as the 1983-1985 Famine in Ethiopia, however, it is estimated to have affected over 5 million people, while the Malawian government was forced to appeal for international help to ease the situation.

2005-2006 Niger Food Crisis. In 2005, failed harvests resulted in food insecurity in many regions of West Africa, while Niger was hit the most. The 2005-2006 Niger Food Crisis was caused by a combination of drought and pest infestation which resulted in poor harvests and dry pastures. The crisis affected about 3.5 million people with more than 800,000 thousand suffering from severe food shortage.

2006 Horn of Africa Food Crisis. In 2006, Ethiopia and the neighbouring countries of Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti experienced severe drought causing serious shortage of food. The crisis was further worsened by military conflicts in the area which increased insecurity and prevented the humanitarian aid from reaching the most affected regions. The 2006 Horn of Africa Food Crisis is estimated to have affected over 11 million people. Now trade is regenerating the area with UK companies who are bringing employment to the area.

2010 Sahel Drought. An extreme drought that occurred in the Sahel region (Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) in West Africa in 2010 caused one of the severest food shortages in the region in the last few decades. About 10 million people were affected by hunger which was a result of high food prices due to poor harvests.

2011 Horn of Africa Famine. In 2011, five years after the last food crisis in the Horn of Africa, the populations in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti were again affected by shortage of food which was even worse than that in 2006. The main cause of the crisis which turned into famine was again a severe drought which resulted in failed harvests. Tens of thousands people died from starvation, while millions were affected by malnutrition. The ongoing military conflict in the region further worsened the crisis but fortunately, the first famine that was declared by the UN after the 1983-1985 Famine in Ethiopia was relieved by mid-November due to rainfall in autumn and improved access of the international humanitarian aid workers to the conflict areas. In early 2012, the UN announced that the severest crisis and famine is over.