NEW YORK, OCTOBER 12 – The famines in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria, critically affecting more than 20 million people, are clearly man-made, conflict-driven crises. “However, as we have been long advocating, we believe that we should also pay attention to the bi-directionality of the relation between conflicts and food insecurity, coming to realize that food insecurity can fuel even more violence, prolonging conflict and bringing about people’s displacements”, the Italian Deputy Representative to the UN Inigo Lambertini told the UN Security Council today putting the spotlight on the role of food insecurity as “root cause” of forced migrations which has been recently highlighted by an in-depth WFP Report, “At the root of Exodus: Food Security, conflict and International Migration”, presented in Rome this week.
Lambertini addressed the need to step up the efforts to strengthen the agricultural and food systems resilience of areas at risk, so as to render them less vulnerable to possible future shocks, honoring the commitment made last May at the Taormina Summit, under the Italian Presidency of the G-7. “In this regard, I wish also to recall the seminar held last week in Rome on Conflicts and Hunger co-organized by Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland in partnership with FAO and WFP, which is a part of a 3-legged cycle of seminar which aims at highlighting the link between conflicts and food security as a key to tackle these issues and in a holistic and effective way”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the Council’s meeting. Until fighting stops and development takes root, communities and entire regions will continue to face hunger, Guterres said, underscoring the link between conflict and famine: “Conflict in one country creates demands on its neighbours to provide food and basic services to refugees. This can lead to further instability, affecting the security of an entire region and beyond,” said Mr. Guterres.
Thursday’s briefing was in response to the request made by the Council in August for an analysis on country-specific impediments to an effective response to the risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and north-east Nigeria.
“Prevention, as always, must be our watchword,” Guterres said, noting that early famine warning mechanisms have worked well in these places, given that the international community responded quickly to his appeals nine months ago with donors coming forward to provide nearly 70 per cent of funds needed. “But while we have succeeded in keeping famine at bay, we have not kept suffering at bay,” the UN chief said, adding that while humanitarian aid is saving lives, “we have not dealt with the one major root cause of these food crises: conflict.”
Some 80 per cent of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) funding is going to areas affected by conflict. Around 60 per cent of the 815 million people suffering from hunger today live in the shadow of conflict. Three-quarters of the stunted children in the world are in countries affected by conflict. The parties to conflict in the four countries have stated their commitment to humanitarian and human rights law – but most of them have not followed through.
Specifically, Mr. Guterres asked the Council to continue to engage in and support the political process in Somalia, and encourage the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states to stabilize their relationship, while in Nigeria, where aid agencies face obstacles because of ongoing attacks by Boko Haram, he encouraged the Government and its counterparts in the Lake Chad Basin to develop a regional strategy to address the root causes of the crisis.
In Yemen, he said, what is needed most is for the parties to return to the negotiation table and focus on agreement. As for South Sudan, he urged parties to the conflict to come to terms urgently, to prevent increased food insecurity, refugee movements that threaten to destabilize the region, and continued human suffering and misery.