Source: Vientiane Times
More than 1 million people are estimated to suffer from acute food insecurity, sparking concerns for a food security crisis in Laos, according to a special report jointly written by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme.
“About 1.04 million people (13.9 percent of the population) were estimated to be moderately acute food insecure and 71,000 people (0.9 percent of the population) to be severely acute food insecure,” stated the report on the 2022 FAO/WFP crop and food security assessment mission to Laos published earlier this month.
Laos has been marked as a “country of concern”, threatened by food insecurity since August 2022.
The acute food insecurity situation in Laos is elevated largely due to the high prices for food, fuel and agricultural inputs, inflationary headwinds for wages and purchasing power, reduced household incomes, and damages to infrastructure caused by natural disasters in 2022, according to the report.
According to the Lao Statistics Bureau, the year-on-year inflation rate is continuing to rise, soaring to 41.3 percent in February, up from 40.3 percent in January.
More funding and resources are needed to support communities in the most critical areas of the country.
According to the report, the highest levels of acute food insecurity were found in the provinces of Attapeu (30 percent) and Luang Namtha (27 percent). This was followed by households headed by a member with no formal education (24 percent) and those reporting large decreases in their income in the month prior to the survey (23 percent).
About 17 percent of households in rural areas were reported to be acutely food insecure compared to 9 percent in urban areas.
“Prices of most food items, including rice, have been on a steady increase since early 2022 and they were at record levels in November 2022, reflecting the high costs of production and transportation,” the report stated.
“Prices of a wide range of imported and locally produced basic food commodities, including wheat flour, different types of meat, vegetables and cooking oils, have risen throughout 2022 and reached, in many cases, record or near-record levels in November.”
According to the Lao Statistics Bureau, general and food inflation rates in January 2023 rose to 40.3 and 47.1 percent respectively, the highest level since March 2000.
The special report outlines the challenges threatening food security in Laos and identifies the requirements for supporting farmers and food insecure households to overcome their difficulties. It’s crucial to provide urgent support to farmers to secure the main harvest prioritising the most vulnerable smallholder farmers in northern and southern provinces who suffered from severe crop losses in 2022.
Technical and financial assistance is needed to strengthen resilience of the agricultural sector in order to mitigate the impact of extreme weather events while promoting sustainable agriculture intensification.
photo from: flickr