Media CenterAnalysis: 14 Countries on the Brink of Widespread Hunger as a Result of COVID-19

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(978) 884-0003

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, March 10, 2021 – As a result of the global pandemic, 14 countries are at substantial risk of slipping deeper into food insecurity, a new analysis by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) finds. According to the report*, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Venezuela, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe are among the 14 countries experiencing the world’s worst food crises. East and West Africa are the regions with the greatest number of “countries of concern.”

“In addition to the tremendous health and economic impacts of this disease, COVID-19 has plunged millions of families further into poverty, threatening their ability to put food on the table,” said Sean Callahan, CRS President and CEO. “As we near the one-year mark of this pandemic, it’s important to acknowledge and tackle the broader toll COVID-19 has taken on especially vulnerable countries, many of which are combating simultaneous crises.”

For the purposes of its report, CRS identified its list of countries based on several factors, including a cross-analysis of data from sources like the Famine Early Warning System Network.

According to the World Bank, the pandemic threatens to push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021, with restrictions on movement, curfews and the closure of nonessential businesses taking its toll on economies. In many of the countries listed in CRS’ report, a combination of conflict, climate change, and economic upheaval have together created a worsening food security outlook.

“Exponential growth of food insecurity is of particular concern given reduced incomes, slow food chains or agricultural production; increasing food prices; limited protection of vulnerable groups; increasing political instability; and conflict,” the analysis states.

In Afghanistan, conflict, widespread unemployment, reduced income and remittances and price increases, are driving food insecurity. In Zimbabwe, a locust invasion, coupled with consecutive droughts and political upheaval, have plunged the country into disaster.

“According to our assessments, the income of more than half of rural families has been drastically reduced compared to 2019. Families are struggling to grow food while food prices are soaring. That means an increasing number of families don’t have enough to eat,” said Nqabayezwe Moffat Moyo, a CRS program manager in Zimbabwe. “The situation is especially troubling in the rural areas, where increasingly, more households are headed by children and the elderly. It’s projected that more than 3 million people in rural areas will need emergency food assistance through March, which is the peak of the lean season.”

CRS urges the new administration and Congress to continue addressing the indirect impacts of the pandemic, especially hunger, while meeting public health needs.

 “As the pandemic drags on, and vaccines are still out of reach for many developing nations, they will likely experience additional waves of the virus that will further exacerbate food insecurity,” Callahan said. “We must act now to avoid a catastrophe, and before decades of development gains are lost.”

*The analysis, conducted using secondary data from sources like the World Food Program, includes 31 countries where CRS is operational.

**To access CRS’ full report, “Covid-19 and Food Insecurity,” click here.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
March 9, 2021

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More