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Violent conflict exacerbated drought-related food insecurity between 2009 and 2019 in sub-Saharan Africa


Conflict, drought and locusts are leading concerns for African food security but the relative importance and spatiotemporal scale of crises resulting from each hazard is poorly characterized. Here we use continuous, subnational data to demonstrate that the rise of food insecurity across sub-Saharan Africa that began in 2014 is attributable to an increase in violent conflict, particularly in South Sudan and Nigeria. Although drought remains a leading trigger of food crises, the prevalence of drought-related crises did not increase from 2009 to 2018. When exposed to drought, pastoralists experienced more widespread, severe and long-lasting food crises than people living in agricultural zones. Food insecurity remained elevated in pastoral regions for 2 years following a drought, while agricultural regions returned to pre-drought food-security levels in ~12 months. The few confirmed famines during the 2009–2018 period coincided with both conflict and drought, while locusts had little effect on food security during this period.

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Fig. 1: Food-insecure population by livelihood zone.
Fig. 2: Prevalence of drought, locusts and conflict, by livelihood zone.
Fig. 3: Sensitivity to drought, locusts and conflict, by livelihood zone.
Fig. 4: Food security crises during droughts in each livelihood zone.
Fig. 5: Distribution of hazards and trends in hazards by country.
Fig. 6: Maximum covariance analysis mode 1 for Somalia.
Fig. 7: Food crisis attribution by livelihood zone.

Data availability

All data used as part of this research are publicly available from the sources listed in Table 1.

Code availability

All code available upon request.


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This project was supported by ACToday, a Columbia World Project. W.A. acknowledges funding from the Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Program. R.S., S.M., E.I.-N., W.S., A.d.S. and F.C. were supported by NSF award OIA 1934798.

Author information




W.A. designed the experiments. W.A., C.T., S.M., E.I.-N., R.S., W.S., F.C. and A.d.S. analysed the data and wrote the paper. W.A., C.T., S.M., W.S., D.M. and K.M. contributed analysis tools and materials to the research.

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Correspondence to Weston Anderson.

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Peer review informationNature Food thanks Chris Funk and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Anderson, W., Taylor, C., McDermid, S. et al. Violent conflict exacerbated drought-related food insecurity between 2009 and 2019 in sub-Saharan Africa. Nat Food 2, 603–615 (2021).

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