Thirty-four countries, including 27 in Africa, are currently in need of external assistance for food due to drought, flooding and civil conflicts, the UN food agency said.
It said in its latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report that the figure had grown from 33 last December, after the addition of Swaziland.
“Drought associated with El Nino has “sharply reduced” 2016 crop production prospects in Southern Africa, while expectations for the harvest in Morocco and Algeria have been lowered due to dry conditions,” the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.
Also in areas of Central America and the Caribbean, ongoing dry conditions linked to El Nino may affect sowings of the main season crops for the third consecutive year, it warned.
Moreover, persistent conflicts in Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Somalia, and the Central African Republic have taken a heavy toll on the agricultural sector, further worsening the humanitarian crisis in those countries.
“In most cases, the impact of conflict extends into neighbouring countries such as Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo that are hosting refugee populations,” the report said.
In several countries already in need of external assistance for food, conditions generally worsened in the past three months, according to the report from FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), mainly in the Southern Africa sub-region, where food prices have reached record highs.
The report also warned that last year’s reduced production would negatively impact the food security situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where “most households were already estimated to have borderline or poor food consumption.”
Elsewhere, the outlook for the 2016 crops already in the ground, mostly winter grains in the northern hemisphere, is generally favourable. Early forecasts indicate large 2016 wheat crops in most countries of Asia.