UN Officials Emphasize Relationship Between Conflict And Hunger

As hunger and conflict both continue to be on the rise worldwide, officials at the United Nations recently spoke about the symbiosis between the two issues, and the need to approach them accordingly. David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Program, emphasized the ways in which global conflict and food scarcity perpetuate each other, urging the UN Security Council to consider the necessity of ending world hunger in order to end conflict, and vice versa on March 23. He noted that every 1 percent increase in hunger correlates with a 2 percent increase in migration, a symptom of both starving populations and the wars that cause and result from the plague of global hunger. Beasley called on the council to end war as means of ending hunger, the latter of which is a far more economically viable goal than the continuing cycle of global conflict, he pointed out.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Marc Lowcock went on to highlight the ways in which conflicts worldwide impede humanitarian aid efforts, with a majority of hungry populations living in areas plagued by war. Lowcock noted that not only does this pose difficulty for aid efforts, but combative measures lead to destruction of food and water supplies, even in countries already made vulnerable by drought and famine. For these reasons, he stressed the need for enforcement of international humanitarian law, and the security council’s role in this.

“This Council’s main responsibility is peace and international security. In other words, this Council can help prevent famine to ever occur again,”  Lowcock said.

In considering world hunger and conflict in relation to one another, it’s possible that a more hopeful path forward on both fronts could be forged. While it would be hard to deny that there’s any connection between the two issues, famine and hunger are often considered to, and often do, have a range of factors as their cause, many of which are environmental. Food shortages in much of the Middle East and Africa, for example, are often linked to droughts in those regions, which are in turn, often linked to global warming. However, as wars have raged throughout the region, hunger has served as both a catalyst for and a symptom of global conflicts.

As World Hunger News (WHN) reports, worldwide famine is at a historical low. This has correlated with improvements in international trade over the 20th century. WHN cites conflict and poor governance as the leading causes of modern-day famines, while the threat of decreased food production as a symptom of global warming looms every more closely. According to WHN, famines are generally approached in the form of humanitarian aid aimed at providing rations to suffering populations, in an effort to solve the short term effects of the problem, while effectively treating famine requires a more multifaceted approach. This can include considering other needs related to food shortage, such as shelter, health care, water, and financial assistance. They further stress that the most effective way to end famine is to treat it before migration becomes a trend, and before people are forced into desperate measures to survive.

This form of desperation can be seen as a valuable recruiting tool for armed fighters, as it empowers those heading and benefiting from conflicts with a steady supply of recruits who have reached a point where they must do anything to ensure the survival of themselves and their families. WHN points to four areas of the world that are currently suffering from acute food insecurity, and teetering on the precipice of famine: South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. As violence continues to emerge from and perpetuates food shortage in these regions, efforts to simply feed hungry people without addressing the larger picture will fail in their goals of saving lives and preventing full out famine, unless they can find ways to work meaningfully with efforts to mitigate and end violence in these regions, and vice versa.

Jeanita Lyman


The Organization for World Peace