2015 GHI: Link between hunger and conflict

October 12, 2015
Written by Masha Hamilton, Vice President of Communications
Photo by Crystal Wells

The 2015 Global Hunger Index reveals the need for peace to end hunger.

Conflict is the main cause of enduring severe hunger, so diplomacy that leads to conflict prevention and resolution is critical to making sure the global humanitarian system can end famine and starvation by 2030, according to this year’s Global Hunger Index, now in its 10th year of monitoring hunger levels throughout the world.

The report, released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe, notes that an unheralded achievement of the last 50 years is the sharp reduction and near elimination of calamitous famines — those that cause more than one million deaths. But it says that political commitment to end conflict is needed to make further progress in fighting world hunger.

Countries with the highest and worst GHI scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war.

Countries with the highest and worst GHI scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war. The two worst-scoring countries, Chad and the Central African Republic, have 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.

Zoumati family stands outside their makeshift shelter in the Mpoko displacement camp

The Zoumati family stands outside their makeshift shelter in the Mpoko displacement camp near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic. The family fled to the camp to escape violence that broke out in the capital city on December 5, 2013. Photo by Crystal Wells/Concern Worldwide

Conflict-stricken countries such as South Sudan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo could not be included in the report due to unavailable data but are known to have high levels of hunger and malnutrition. As a result, the picture of global hunger may be worse than the report can show.

“Conflict is development in reverse,” said Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide. “Without peace, ending poverty and hunger by 2030 will never be achieved. The time has come for the international community to make conflict prevention, mitigation and resolution a far higher political priority.”

One in Nine Is Chronically Hungry

Global hunger is a continuing challenge with one in nine people worldwide chronically undernourished and more than one quarter of children too short for their age due to nutritional deficiencies. Nearly half of all child deaths under age five are due to malnutrition, which claims the lives of about 3.1 million children per year.

Of the 117 countries surveyed, 52 are facing “serious” or “alarming” levels of hunger. The GHI combines four component indicators into one index: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

The report’s good news is that as a group, the level in developing countries has fallen by 27 percent since 2000, and 17 countries have reduced their hunger index scores by 50 percent or more.

Ibrie Seid, a farmer in Gelsha, Ethiopia

Ibrie Seid is a farmer in Gelsha, Ethiopia, a country whose GHI score has improved over the last 15 years. Photo by Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures

But, as the report notes, “Unless the prevalence and persistence of armed conflict can be reduced, and preferably ended, and the needs and rights of both visible and invisible victims of violence conflict can be addressed, the gains will be lost.”

“When famine or acute hunger occurs today, it is usually the result of armed conflict,” notes Alex de Waal in an essay accompanying the report.

Stronger Mechanisms to Resolve Conflict

Food security and political stability go hand in hand in both directions, the study notes. “Around the world, people believe that a government that cannot feed its people has forfeited its legitimacy…Food security is not only an essential component of human well-being, but also a foundation for political stability. Governments jeopardize food security at their peril,” the report says.

The number of conflicts has increased since 2007, and 11 million people were uprooted by violence in 2014

“Two tasks stand out for eliminating conflict-related hunger. First, we need stronger mechanisms to prevent and resolve severe conflicts…Second, we must activate the international emergency relief system to dispatch large-scale food aid where it is needed most.”

Samer, a four-year-old Syrian refugee, lives with his family in an informal tented settlement in Mohamara

Samer, a four-year-old Syrian refugee, lives with his family in an informal tented settlement in Mohamara in Akkar, north Lebanon. Photo by Dalia Khamissy

The number of conflicts has increased since 2007, and 11 million people were uprooted by violence in 2014, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. That is 42,500 per day — the highest level ever recorded.

“In previous eras, governments and rebels controlled humanitarian access. They either permitted it and also protected aid workers or blocked access. Today, humanitarian workers face greater personal dangers as they navigate a more dangerous micro-terrain of warfare, village by village,” the report noted. “Under these circumstances, getting food aid to those in need demands exceptional skills, and the riskier conditions can result in ‘new famines.’”

Read the full 2015 GHI Report here

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