Hunger and War: The New Global Challenge

GHIThe Global Hunger Index is out, and while it shows the level of hunger in developing countries has fallen by 27% since 2000, it also highlights the disturbing link between armed conflict and severe hunger. With the current displacement of thousands of migrants fleeing warzones in Africa and the Near East, a global approach to ending hunger is urgently needed – one which includes the rehabilitation and revitalizing of national agricultural systems, says Thomas Price, Senior Programme Officer at the GFAR Secretariat.

The report, released by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide, shows that the countries with the highest and worst GHI scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war. The two worst-scoring countries – Central African Republic and Chad – both experienced violent conflict and political instability in recent years. In contrast, in Angola, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, hunger levels have fallen substantially since the end of the civil wars of the 1990s and 2000s.

While the authors call for the international community to prioritise conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution, there is also a clear role for agricultural research and innovation in ending hunger and malnutrition. In the words of Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General: “We must keep pushing, keep partnering, and keep innovating until nutrient-rich foods become sustainably accessible, available, and used by everyone in order to reach their full potential”.

Around 59.5 million people are displaced by conflict worldwide, more than ever before. However, it is those who stay behind who suffer most.  The report says more than 80 percent of those affected by armed conflict remain within their countries and they experience severe food insecurity.  Research by FAO in 2010 confirms this, highlighting the dramatic impact of protracted crises on food security and nutrition in 22 countries, particularly on the poor in rural areas. (Further FAO research and resources can be found here).

Rebuilding agricultural systems

Agricultural research for development is particularly vulnerable in these crisis situations, and vital human and physical resources are depleted and often lost. In Iraq, for instance, research staff declined by two-thirds after the 2003 war. Such losses compromise countries’ capability to innovate now and in the future.  A key focus of GFAR’s work is to support the rebuilding of agricultural research and innovation systems in countries during and after armed conflict and natural disasters.

GFAR brings together national and international stakeholders to exchange information and find ways to collaborate.  Last year, for instance, IFAD, IFPRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets, jointly held a workshop on Enhancing Resilience to Conflict in Arab Countries. Policy makers, development partners and researchers came together to discuss how the Arab region could work together to reduce the impact of crises like conflict, natural disasters and global spikes in food prices, especially on the rural poor.  Research by the CGIAR highlighted the direct relationship between food insecurity and conflict in Egypt, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and the critical need for policies to improve food security and better quality information for decision-makers.

In West Asia and North Africa, AARINENA – the regional forum partner in GFAR – and ICARDA are continuing to build on the commitments of The Kigali Movement of 2012. Movement participants focus on restoring and rejuvenating rural areas through national action and regional cooperation, inspired by examples of success in practice. They are supporting institutions to pool expertise and resources at regional and global levels to foster agricultural innovation in countries emerging from, or still in, crisis. GFAR was also approached by the Government of Palestine to help rebuild its national agricultural research system, by bringing together actions through AARINENA, ICARDA, FAO, and expertise from outside the region.

At policy level, GFAR partners have contributed to the development of the Committee on Food Security’s Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises. The framework emphasizes country ownership and accountability, the supporting role of regional bodies to attain food security, the role of governance, and the contribution of local social institutions, civil society and the private sector in addressing underlying causes of protracted crisis situations. This year governments and their partners have focused on endorsing the Framework for Action and initiating a set of immediate actions, ahead of its formal adoption later this year.

Ultimately, rebuilding national agricultural systems is about rebuilding lives and livelihoods, but it can only go so far. As Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley observed, at the launch of this year’s GHI, “Conflict is development in reverse. Without peace, ending poverty and hunger by 2030 will never be achieved”.

Now in its 10th year, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool for measuring and tracking hunger worldwide. For more information about the report contact Daniel Burnett, To find out about GFAR’s work in crisis and post crisis countries, contact Thomas Price: .


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