Security Council Action Vital in Breaking Deadly Links Between Conflict and Hunger
After years of the rate of hunger declining worldwide, recently it has risen sharply again. The most recent global data on hunger and malnutrition indicates that there are about 815 million undernourished people in the world today, up from 777 million the previous yeari. Conflict is the main reason behind this reversal. The majority of hungry and malnourished people live in countries affected by conflict – 489 million out of the 815 million people. Almost 75% of the world’s 155 million stunted children under the age of five live in countries affected by conflictii. This reflects broader trends where civilians disproportionately bear the cost of armed conflict, conflict is increasingly urbanised, and the proliferation of non-state armed actors and intra-state violence make accountability for international law increasingly challenging. Hunger is too often not only a byproduct of the changing nature of conflict, but it is increasingly the result of a deliberate tactic used by warring parties to deny access to food and other lifesaving assistance in con-travention of international law – the aim is to literally starve the enemy into submission.
However, famine, hunger and malnutrition are avoidable. Besides the immediate devastating impact of conflict and hunger on human lives and communities, the UN reports that the current situation means “an entire generation will likely grow up to face dim-inished productive capacity, income-earning potential and social skills with far-reaching implications for many communities and countries.”
On 22nd February 2017, the UN Secretary General announced there were pockets of famine in South Sudan and a very credible risk of famine in Somalia, Yemen and North East Nigeria. While famine may have been averted or contained last year millions of people remain food insecure because of conflict. Despite some successes, the number of people experiencing severe hunger as a direct consequence of armed conflict continues to rise in these four countries and elsewhere – including but not limited to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Syria. In some of these cases countries are entering their third, fourth, or even seventh year of conflict. The longer these conflicts go on, the more difficult it will be for those who survive to recover and rebuild – physically, psychologically and economically.
In Yemen, the number of people who are extremely food insecure and at risk of starvation in the country has risen by 24% to 8.4 million since April 2017iv. In several countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Syriav, the situation is also getting worse and pockets of hunger are developing rapidly. The number of people in need of humanitarian and longer-term assistance globally is rising.
This briefing makes a number of recommendations to Security Council members ahead of the Conflict and Hunger discussion on March 23, underscoring the international peace and security dimensions of conflict-related food insecurity, as well setting out some of the ways lives can be saved, and how longer-term development and stability can be achieved by answering people’s needs appropriately.