The 2021 Global Food Crises Report highlights the remarkably high severity and numbers of people in Crisis or worse in 55 countries/territories, driven by persistent conflict, pre-existing and COVID-19-related economic shocks, and weather extremes. The number identified in the 2021 edition is the highest in the report’s five-year existence.

While conflict continues to displace people, disrupt livelihoods and damage economies, the COVID-19 pandemic and related containment measures have exacerbated pre-existing drivers of fragility, widened inequalities and exposed structural vulnerabilities of local and global food systems, hitting the most economically vulnerable households particularly hard.

The shocks come amid the frequent threat of weather extremes that result in crop and livestock losses, destroy homes and displace people. Together and separately, such shocks – especially when persistent or recurrent – drive millions of people to lose their livelihoods and lack adequate food. These shocks also increase the risk of all forms of malnutrition, and, in the most extreme cases, cause death.

Policy-makers need clear and reliable data and analyses to inform policies, strategies and actions. But information is often conflicting, based on various data sources and employs different methodologies that do not have an agreed equivalent in terms of standard IPC/CH phases. The Report– an initiative of the Global Network against Food Crises, facilitated by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) and its 16 global and regional partners – responds to these limitations by providing consultative process.

The 2021 report provides an overview of food crises in 2020 using acute food insecurity estimates for populations in countries/territories where data are based on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and Cadre Harmonisé (CH) or comparable sources. It focuses on crises where the local capacities to respond are insufficient, prompting a request for the urgent mobilization of the international community, as well as countries/territories where there is ample evidence that the magnitude and severity of the food crisis exceed the local resources and capacities needed to respond effectively.

The reports Senior Committee confirms the scope of the report, endorses the criteria used to select the countries/territories, provides guidance on data gaps, technical challenges, consensus-building, and eventually validates the report.

The reports Technical Working Groups agree on methods and approach; identify data sources and published analyses; engage with regional and country-level food security and nutrition specialists to address gaps; review and validate the quality and reliability of data; and identify peak estimates and key drivers of acute food insecurity and malnutrition.

The result is a document of reference with credible information and analyses endorsed by experts and held to the highest standards, based on independent, consensus-based assessments. It also highlights critical data gaps.

The 2021 report estimates that at least 155 million people were acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) or equivalent in 2020 in 55 countries/territories that asked for external assistance – the highest level in five years of reporting. It represents an increase of nearly 20 million people since 2019, when almost 135 million people were in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) or equivalent, in 55 countries/territories. Around 21 percent of the analyzed population was in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) or equivalent in 2020, up from 16.5 percent in 2019.

While the report compiles acute food insecurity estimates with a specific focus on countries that need assistance based on internationally agreed standards and consensus among technical partners, some organizations produce different estimates based on their own geographical coverage, methods and mandate, which they use for their own operational needs.