April 3 (UPI) -- More than 113 million people in 53 countries experienced "acute hunger" last year, with African nations disproportionally affected by food insecurity, the United Nations said.
Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria and Sudan were, in that order, among the eight countries that represent two-thirds or 72 million people who faced acute food insecurity last year, the Food Security Information Network showed in its "2019 Global Report on Food Crises."
The primary drivers behind these statistics are conflict and insecurity as some 74 million people who faced acute hunger were in 21 countries or states that experienced military conflict, it said.
Climate disasters were responsible for 29 million people suffering from hunger last year, the study showed, with most of these people located in African nations.
The study, now in its third year, said 2018 experienced a slight improvement over 2017's 123 million people who suffered from acute hunger but that decrease can be attributed to a drop last year in climate-related events, such as severe drought or flooding.
Also, an additional 143 million people in 42 other countries are on the verge of suffering from malnutrition, it said.
"It is clear from the Global Report that despite a slight drop in 2018 in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity -- the most extreme form of hunger -- the figure is still far too high," FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said during a conference in Brussels on the findings.
The outlook for 2019 does not look favorable, the study said, as those currently experiencing the most severe food crises are expected to continue to do so with large segments of the greatest affected populations may slip into "emergency levels" of acute food insecurity.
"Investments in conflict prevention and sustaining peace will save lives and livelihoods, reduce structural vulnerabilities and address the root causes of hunger," the report said.