Hunger in 2015 - where to watch

By Joe Dyke

Food shortages are often portrayed as random – the result of freak weather conditions or short-term political crises. Yet they are often deeply predictable – while short-term trends can exaggerate the impact, most of the causes are structural.

Last week the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) released its latest forward-looking analysis of food needs in key countries. The data track not just which countries are likely to have food shortages this year but when they are likely to occur.

The interactive map below highlights countries that are particularly prone to crisis in the coming seven months. Click on a country to see how many people are at risk, the level of crisis and when the potential lean season is.

FEWS NET doesn’t cover all countries with food crises. Syria, India, and Iraq, for example are excluded. This is partly due to FEWS NET's  background - it was founded in Africa - and also partly because in the case of Syria and Iraq these trends are still new.

FEWS NET uses the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification to grade crises into five categories, from “minimal” to “famine.”

Currently there are no countries classified as being in the midst of a famine, but South Sudan is one level below at “emergency”. Some 17 countries, including Yemen, Sudan and Senegal, are given phase 3 status – crisis – meaning at least 1 in 5 households face significant food gaps. Yemen, the report said, would have been in phase four were it not for ongoing humanitarian aid, which has been threatened by violence in recent weeks.

For a fuller briefing on the research, see this video.