Conflict as a catalyst for rising global hunger

The World Health Organization, along with other United Nations agencies, has estimated that the number of people worldwide currently experiencing hunger is 828million, and unless rapid action is taken this figure will rise.

The malnutrition and hunger crisis has grown to epic proportions with over 150 million extra individuals experiencing hunger since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.

The WHO says that the global community is moving backwards and further away from its promise to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition by 2030. 

The publication of the new edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report presents updates on the deteriorating global food security and nutrition situation.

The report also looks at ways in which governments can repurpose their current support to agriculture to reduce the cost of healthy diets, mindful of the limited public resources available in many parts of the world.

Hunger in the Horn of Africa

Increased hunger has been undoubtedly caused by climate change driving unusual weather patterns across the globe, particularly in East Africa where the rainy season has been unreliable for the last decade – causing widespread failure of crops and livestock deaths plunging households in food insecurity.

Conflict has also aided the spread of hunger and famine, with access to food being weaponised. The civil unrest across East Africa has led to food being scarce as raiding groups have stolen food stores leaving farmers without crops to tend.

Conflict, war and civil unrest all act as catalysts for hunger by destroying crops, controlling food supplies and restricting accessibility of food.

Households which have reliable income are finding hard to purchase sufficient food as supplies are unreliable and prices exceedingly inflated. According to media outlet The Conversation, the prices for staple commodities in Kenya, such as maize flour, wheat flour, potatoes, vegetables, and cooking oil, “rose by an average of 20% in January 2022 compared to the same period in 2021”.

Famine in the Arabian Peninsula

Across the strait to Yemen, an ongoing civil war has left farmers unable tend to their crops meaning food production has ceased in some areas. Combined with the alleged confiscation of food supplies by armed forces and conflict systematically destroying food production and storage facilities, hunger has caused the deaths of over 85,000 children, with thousands more living with stunting and wasting, estimates the NGO Save The Children .

The Famine Early Warning System has placed the majority of the horn of Africa in crisis or emergency levels for this summer with famine looking increasingly likely in conflict zones.

Food insecurity in Europe

In Europe, the conflict in Ukraine has led to global food prices to surge placing millions more households across the world into food insecurity. Global food exports have ceased from Ukraine, and Russian exports have been heavily impacted, leaving humanitarian organisations struggling to source wheat and grain to provide as food aid, as well impacting the global wholesale prices of many types of cereal, oilseeds and also agricultural products.

Across Europe everyday food item prices are increasing pushing vulnerable members of the community into food poverty and increasing reliance of food aid and food banks.

Global Health has over 20,000 records on global hunger and famine. Using the search string: ("wasting" or "stunting" or "hunger" or "famine" or "malnutrition") AND ("conflict" or "war*") finds 8,989 results on the topic of armed conflict and hunger.

Read the report here:

FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2022. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022. Repurposing food and agricultural policies to make healthy diets more affordable. Rome, FAO.