Flooding can affect food security for over 5.6 million people across several African nations, according to a new study.

The work comes at a time when floods have also devastated Pakistan, India, large parts of the European Union, and the United States.

“Our findings show that floods can impact food security both immediately and in the months after the flood event,” says Connor Reed, a former graduate student at the New York University Center for Data Science and lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In many flood events we assessed, there were substantial damages to infrastructure, croplands, and livestock, which compromised food production and access, as well as water resources and sanitation also critical to food security.”

In recent years, record rainfall and flooding have prompted increased attention to the ramifications for affected populations and pointed to the urgency for a greater understanding of the magnitude of their destruction, particularly on populations’ food needs.

To gain detailed insights into the impact of flood disasters, Reed, along with Sonali Shukla McDermid, an associate professor in New York University’s environmental studies department, and other colleagues, examined more than a dozen countries across western, eastern, and southern Africa, including Nigeria, Niger, Kenya, Mozambique, and Malawi, among others.

Over the studied period (2009-2020), the researchers examined how key flood characteristics, including location, duration, and extent, influence an independent food insecurity metric used by the USAID-created Famine Early Warning System: the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale.

IPC measures the severity of food insecurity using a five-point scale: minimal food security (IPC 1), stressed (IPC 2), emergency (IPC 3), crisis (IPC 4), and famine (IPC 5). The team measured the impact of flooding over extended periods of time using panel analyses.

The results showed that approximately 12% of those who experienced food insecurity in the studied areas had their food security status affected by flooding over the 2009-2020 period. These impacts included detrimental increases to food insecurity, as expected, but there were also some beneficial impacts that ameliorated food insecurity, depending on the time period and regional scale.

Read the full article about flooding in Africa by James Devitt at Futurity.