1 in 9 people in the world today are affected by hunger and malnutrition, according to the UN’s latest annual report on global hunger. Over half of these people live in conflict-affected countries.
Hunger and conflict are often intrinsically linked; while conflict creates hunger, hunger can also lead to conflict. The UN officially recognised the close links between war and hunger in May 2018, when the Security Council agreed Resolution 2417.
How does conflict create hunger?
Sadly, warring parties in a conflict often use hunger for political ends or as a weapon of war – using siege tactics in areas with large civilian populations, disrupting trade, burning fields, bombing markets, destroying crops, starving civilians and blocking their access to humanitarian aid. In various ways, these kinds of actions have played out in countries from Nigeria to Yemen, Syria to South Sudan.
Communities affected by conflict are frequently forced to flee their homes. This exacerbates their exposure to the risk of acute malnutrition as they lose access to the means of producing or purchasing food.
How does hunger create conflict?
There are two important factors to consider; the economy and the environment, which both have knock on effects for hunger.
The collapse of economies and rise in food prices can often leave families struggling to make ends meet and lead to conflict. In places such as the Sahel region in Africa, the combination of rising food prices and drought have created tensions between different communities. Other crises in Syria, Somalia and Nigeria have all been linked back to extreme droughts and floods, creating food shortages, which in turn have led to territorial conflicts.
Today, 46 of the world’s conflicts stemmed from issues linked to food insecurity.
Does Action Against Hunger work in conflict-affected regions?
Yes, people living in some of the most conflict-affected countries in the world such as Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, rely on our humanitarian aid programmes. We are providing treatment for malnutrition, community kitchens, food vouchers, education on eating healthily, and support for healthcare centres. Our teams also make sure there is access to clean, safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. The psychosocial impact of conflict and hunger on populations is also at the core of what our teams do, as we provide counselling, therapy and support to those traumatised by the violence.
Juliet Parker, Director of Operations for Action Against Hunger UK says, “The international community must urgently translate words into action by acting to stop the use of hunger as a weapon of war”.
What is being done to address the cause?
On November 12, 2018, we launched our international #StopHungerCrime campaign to coincide with the inaugural Paris Peace Forum, the first global meeting of its kind to try to find solutions related to today’s urgent global crises such as conflict and hunger.
As part of the campaign, and to raise awareness among the public, the media and world leaders of this silent crisis, we have melted down bullets from war zones and made them into knives and forks, intended as symbols of our struggle and of hope for an end to the weaponisation of hunger.
How can you help?
We need you to join in our protest by publicly posting a ‘selfie’ on social media holding up a knife and fork crossed in protest with the hashtag #StopHungerCrime. The more people voice their protest, the more likely our concerns will be heard. Together, we can break the cycle between conflict and hunger and ensure the lives of millions of innocent people, especially children, are not cut short.