Photo: WFP/Annabel Symington

What Peace Would Mean for People Caught in the Vicious Cycle of Conflict and Hunger

World Food Programme
December 22, 2021

What would peace mean for families living in the world’s conflict and hunger hotspots? Self-sufficiency. Safety. Children going back to school and having homes to return to at the end of the day. Or, in the words of a young student in Yemen, “the beginning of happiness.”

Read on for more answers from United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) staff in Yemen, the Central Sahel and Sudan on what peace would mean for the people they serve.

Yemen

By Annabel Symington

Yemen’s hunger crisis was caused by war. Peace is its only solution. Behind this simple formulation is a difficult reality for millions of Yemeni families: displacement, rising food prices, fuel shortages, the depreciation of the currency, lack of jobs, the destruction of infrastructure and basic public services. These are all contributing to rising levels of hunger.

The way to stop hunger in Yemen is to end the war and stabilize the economy.

Peace would mean families could once again produce their own food – something the U.N. World Food Programme is already supporting through programs to rehabilitate farmland, irrigation systems and roads. Peace would mean jobs would return.

Peace would also end restrictions on air and sea imports, which contribute to shortages of fuel and food and drive up costs for Yemenis.

mother carrying little boy and walking with children
Photo: Hebatallah Munassar

“Families who have been displaced by the conflict – with many of them forced to move three, four, even five times – could return home. Over 4 million people are internally displaced in Yemen because of the war,” said Annabel Symington.

Peace and stability would also mean children could go back to school. The U.N. World Food Programme’s school feeding program in Yemen targets areas where the school dropout rate is the highest due to the war. The daily snacks the children receive are vital nutrition for them, as well as an incentive for parents to keep sending them to school.

young girl in black headscarf and green dress
Photo: WFP/Annabel Symington

“But many children are still missing out on school, with the impact of lost years of education likely to hamper an entire generation – and the country itself – for years to come,” said Annabel Symington.

Khalwa, a student at a school where the U.N. World Food Programme distributes daily snacks to students, sums up what peace would mean for Yemen: “The end of war means the beginning of happiness.”

Central Sahel: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger

By Katharina Dirr and Greta Tumbrink

Security incidents, attacks and kidnappings are a daily reality for millions of civilians who are caught between armed conflict, local violence and military operations in the Central Sahel. Land and access to resources are among the main root causes of violence, while climate change, rising costs and COVID-19 continue to exacerbate hunger.

women carrying baskets through grassy farmland
Photo: WFP/Richard Mbouet

“The Central Sahel is a region with a strong agricultural and pastoral tradition, where most people should be able to grow their own food and trade what surplus they have. In this part of the world, land is the bank account of many,” said Katharina Dirr and Greta Tumbrink.

Peace would mean farming and herding communities having access to land and water that would allow them to grow food and their livestock to graze. It would mean that everyone could build their life in a sustainable way and feed themselves.

It would mean people would not have to flee from their homes, leaving everything behind and already vulnerable communities would not have to host displaced people, sharing what little they have. It would also mean our staff and partners could access exactly those people and do their job without facing security risks.

schoolgirls in colorful headscarves sitting at desks
Photo: WFP/Mariama Ali Souley

“At the center of our work are people: the displaced and host communities in Burkina Faso coming together to rehabilitate land; a women’s farmers group in Mali supplying the local school canteen; a teenager in Niger graduating from school – each and every one of them are contributing to more prosperous, peaceful societies,” said Katharina Dirr and Greta Tumbrink.

Sudan

By Leni Kinzli

Darfur and some other parts of Sudan continue to be affected by localized, intercommunal clashes. In early December fighting that broke out in West Darfur and claimed the lives of at least 88 people is just one example of this.

group of people will solemn expressions looking at camera
Photo: WFP/Leni Kinzli

“People in Darfur have been displaced for more than a decade due to conflict. For some, this has occurred a number of times. Any outbreak of violence sends vulnerable people fleeing yet again, forcing them to start over,” said Leni Kinzli.

These instances of violence also make it more difficult and unsafe for aid agencies, including the U.N. World Food Programme, to reach people with the assistance they need. With no safe way to reach certain locations following outbreaks of violence, assistance is delayed.

Peace for the people of Sudan would mean that efforts can be geared towards creating livelihood opportunities for millions of people, which would help boost local markets and ultimately stabilize the economy.


This story originally appeared on WFP’s Stories on December 10, 2021.