Famine Early Warning Systems Network

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet) is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity. Created in 1985 by the UC Agency for International Development (USAID) after devastating famines in East and West Africa, FEWSnet provides objective, evidence-based analysis to help government decision-makers and relief agencies plan for and respond to humanitarian crises.

Recently, FEWSnet released a food security alert for Ethiopia in response to a drought that has plagued the Somali Region over the past year. Reduced access to food throughout Eastern Africa – due to mass livestock losses – causes acute malnutrition and an elevated risk of famine in Somalia. FEWSnet rapid assessment of this crisis shows a heavy reliance on emergency food aid. However, the current aid stream is not sufficient to alleviate the community needs and the food security in the region may continue to deteriorate.

FEWSnet has also identified food insecurity in the South Sudan, Nigeria Yemen and Somalia as being of highest concern. In-country political conflicts in South Sudan have disrupted trade and triggered depressed macroeconomic conditions that limit household access to markets. In Nigeria, political conflict is driving high staple food prices and restricting market activity, while in Yemen the various conflicts have decreased income, yet food prices are still high. Food insecurity in Somalia, much like the situation in Ethiopia, is caused by drought that leads to crop losses and ultimately food insecurity.

Nathan D. Mueller, PhD, of UC Irvine and David Lopez-Carr, PhD, of UC Santa Barbara and co-director of the UCGHI Planetary Health Center of Expertise (PHCOE) currently are collaborating with FEWSnet on two research projects. The PHCOE works extensively with partners in related disciplines to identify solutions that will help populations, both human and animal, foster resilience in the face of changing environments.

Mueller’s project, Agroclimatic variability and population health in the developing world, examines the relationship between the productivity of the agriculture sector and food security in developing countries. According to Mueller, 790 million people experience food insecurity and approximately a quarter of children under five experience stunted growth. Mueller and colleagues at FEWSnet are working towards the shared goal of predicting and monitoring food security crises around the world.

Lopez-Carr with Aracely Martinez Rodas, MA, of Universidad de Guatemala are collaborating with FEWSnet and Conservation International on their project, Sierra Lacandón Project: Integrating planetary health into households and communities in Petén, Guatemala. They will examine the impact of a family planning intervention initiated by the Guatemalan NGO WINGS in 1999, and continuing today, on planetary health outcomes.