Photo: ©FAO/Francis Muana

A famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February this year, after conflict broke out in the world’s newest nation in December 2013.

17 August 2017, Rome – The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) welcomes the UN Security Council’s recognition of conflict as a major cause of famine, and the call to enhance longer-term recovery and resilience of conflict-affected countries. FAO’s response comes after the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement acknowledging the link between conflict and famine.

“We know through our work that countries with the highest levels of food insecurity are also those most affected by conflict,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva. “FAO reaffirms our commitment to work with the UN system and Member Nations to address conflict-related food insecurity, and we echo the Security Council’s call for greater access in conflict-affected countries so we can reach those in need,” he said.

The world faces one of the largest food crises in 70 years, with 20 million people in four countries – northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – at risk of famine. If no action is taken, an additional 10 million will be threatened by famine. In fact, civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between conflict and hunger. Post-conflict countries with high food insecurity are 40 percent more likely to relapse into conflict within a 10-year timespan.

FAO has long raised awareness on the link between conflict and hunger, including when the Director General addressed the Security Council in July. FAO, with the European Union, the World Food Programme and other partners, provides regular updates on food security to the UN Security Council and publishes an annual Global Report on Food Crises.

Clear link between conflict and famine

In a marshland area of South Sudan, the link between conflict and famine is clear. Families have fled violence to seek safety in the swamp, but they have very little means to feed themselves and hunger levels have soared. They are surviving on life-saving deliveries of food and fish they catch themselves using emergency fishing kits provided by FAO.

Agriculture is often the main livelihood for the majority of people in conflict-affected situations, even as violence rages around them. For this reason FAO works with its partners in often extremely challenging security contexts to provide rural livelihood support. In Syria, for example, an FAO survey in 2016 found that over 75 percent of households in rural areas still grow food for their own consumption, even if at a reduced scale.

Investing in sustainable food production can also be a pathway to peace. FAO has developed a corporate peacebuilding policy to amplify its contribution to conflict prevention. In Colombia, FAO has partnered with the country’s Rural Development Agency to support policies aimed at restoring rural areas that were affected by armed conflict, to bolster the peace process by rebuilding rural communities, and to increase the country’s agricultural competitiveness.

Combining efforts to restore and support resilient livelihoods with peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts is critical for sustainable development and food security. Equally, investing in food security may strengthen efforts to prevent conflict and achieve sustained peace.    


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