The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 (SOFI) has revealed that global hunger is on the rise again after declining for more than two decades. Global hunger rose from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million people in 2016.
This recent surge in hunger resulted in the worst-case scenario in South Sudan, with famine declared in February, and alerts of a high risk of famine for Somalia, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria in 2017.
Conflict remains the main reason behind this reversal. Data shows that the majority of hungry people live in countries affected by conflict – 489 million out of the 815 million people. And almost 75 percent of the world’s stunted under-five year olds live in countries affected by conflict – 122 million out of the 155 million children.1 That means an entire generation will likely grow up to face diminished productive capacity, income-earning potential and social skills with far-reaching implications for many communities and countries.
According to the Global Report on Food Crises 2017, about 108 million people faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2016 and required urgent humanitarian assistance – up from 80 million the previous year. Critically, the report showed that 10 out of the 13 major food crises in the world were driven by conflict.
Conflicts adversely impact food insecurity in many different ways. They cause mass displacements, deep economic recessions, drive up inflation, disrupt employment and erode finances for social protection and health, and make basic necessities, including food, less available and accessible. Where people’s livelihoods rely significantly on agriculture, conflict undermines agricultural supply chains and marketing channels from production to harvesting, processing, transportation and marketing. Conflict undermines resilience and often forces individuals and households to engage in increasingly destructive and irreversible coping strategies that threaten their future livelihoods, food security, nutrition and dignity.
While conflict affects food security and nutrition, deteriorations in food security can exacerbate tensions and risks of conflict. The combination of poverty and hunger, lack of opportunities, unequal access to jobs, land or wealth, is a volatile mix that can create feelings of anger and hopelessness. These grievances can be exploited by individuals and groups with a desire to encourage violence. Not being able to afford enough food can be a trigger for violence and instability, particularly when institutions are weak and economic disparities are broad.
With the Presidential Statement of the 9 August 2017 (S/PRST/2017/14), the United Nations Security Council reiterated its commitment to work with the SecretaryGeneral to “pursue all possible avenues to end conflicts, including through addressing their underlying root causes in an inclusive and sustainable manner”. Investments in crisis prevention and recovery call for a robust understanding of the humanitarian consequences of conflict, agreement on the number of people in need and coordinated efforts to respond to the crises. Without peace, it is impossible to achieve a world free of hunger; and while there is hunger, a peaceful world where human rights are respected will remain elusive.
Against this background and in the context of increasing humanitarian crises, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Programme are committed, alongside Member States, to provide decision makers and the public at large with transparent and harmonized information to increase accountability by all.
FAO Deputy Director-General (Programmes)
WFP Deputy Executive Director