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It is the world’s biggest cause of hunger, and it is on the rise globally. More than half of all people faced with protracted food insecurity live in countries affected by conflict, which is the world’s biggest driver of hunger, and by economic fragility. Conflict is on the rise, according to the Institute for Economics & Peace’s Global Peace Index; the 2021 edition recorded the ninth deterioration in peacefulness in 13 years, as levels of civil and political unrest worsen. Since 2010, the Index found, the number of conflicts globally increased by 88%. Conflict is destructive for every aspect of a food system, from production, to harvesting, processing, transport and on to sale and consumption. Conflict also impedes access, by making it difficult for humanitarians to reach affected populations or for people to move to areas where life-saving assistance can be provided. The links between hunger and violence have been well established in places like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be facing famine-like conditions, and the impacts of the war in Ukraine on food costs threaten to worsen the situation. In 2021, the United Nations reported that at least 400,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region were living in famine-like conditions as a result of military confrontation and an associated humanitarian catastrophe (this was still the case as of mid-2022). That is the highest number of people recorded living in such conditions since a 2011 famine in Somalia (which had also been triggered in part by armed conflict between rival groups vying for power), yet according to the UN only a small percentage of needed supplies were able to reach affected populations. The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - a major global food supplier - on the prices of grains, cooking oil, fuel, and fertilizer has pushed ever more people into acute hunger, even those living many times zones away from active battlefields. Urgent, sustained action is now needed to break this destructive cycle of conflict and hunger. A conflict-sensitive approach to programming in complex emergencies can significantly minimize the unintended consequences of operations, while also making niche but meaningful contributions to strengthening social cohesion - by enabling more equitable access to resources, and by ultimately achieving sustainable peace outcomes.

Conflict and Food Security

KEY TRENDS

Access to food is a priority