This past May, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution officially recognizing the link between conflict and hunger for the first time. The measure (#2417-2018) calls on parties to armed conflict to comply with international humanitarian law and not threaten the survival of civilians by inhibiting their ability to produce or access food and other critical resources.
The historic resolution sends a clear message: the underlying causes of conflict and hunger must be addressed within a growing number of fragile states around the world to ensure their citizens have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food.
For many individuals and families living in conflict zones, options are limited. Some try to wait out the violence or move to a nearby town, hoping the violence will subside so they can return to their homes, jobs and schools. Yet often the unrest grows, businesses close and food becomes scarce, forcing people to flee to unfamiliar places in their attempt to survive. Suddenly teachers, doctors, business owners, artists, scientists, students, athletes, mothers, fathers, and children are given new titles: refugee, internally displaced person, asylum seeker.
The resolution follows a tremendous amount of discussion and work on hunger, conflict and state fragility. Last year, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) The Root of Exodus report provided firsthand accounts of migrants—many from East and West Africa, Asia and the Middle East—who had found their way to Greece, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. When people are forced to flee their homes, they rarely move just once. Despite their long journeys, many indicated that they would likely move again due to a lack of economic opportunities and low levels of assistance. People who find shelter in refugee camps often remain there for years. Today, there are thousands of children who were born in camps and have never known another life.
These findings have grave implications given the direction of recent global trends. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of hungry people in the world rose for the first time in a decade, largely the result of a record number of people displaced due to violence, conflict and persecution of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a certain social group. Of the 815 million hungry people, 489 million—almost 60 percent—live in countries affected by conflict.