Even with the added layer of the COVID‑19 pandemic, hunger has increasingly clustered in the world’s most fragile, conflict-affected environments. In conflict-driven crises, constrained humanitarian access combined with substantial need can result in programming to revert to quick, stop-gap response measures aimed at avoiding emergency—or even famine—levels of food insecurity. However, such efforts rarely have lasting impact, and they can also undermine existing coping strategies that people rely on both during and after conflict, such as when local markets and livelihoods are disrupted by the distribution of free goods and services.
Mercy Corps proposes a different approach to building food security in complex crises: a multi-year and multi-dimensional, context-specific response strategy aimed at delivering immediate relief wherever necessary, without compromising long-term well-being. This includes addressing systemic barriers to food and nutrition security while also building the capacities of individuals and households to manage shocks that undermine food security more effectively. In addition to outlining an approach, the paper describes key elements to operationalize it within programs and across portfolios.