ROME – The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme today made an impassioned plea for peace amid mounting evidence of the links between conflict, migration and rising hunger.
Concerns are growing that progress in defeating global hunger is being reversed as record numbers of people flee their homes to escape fighting.
“Ten out of 13 of the World Food Programme’s largest food assistance operations are driven by conflict, and as we mark World Food Day today, we think of the people everywhere who dream of peace and again being able to share a family meal at home. I call on the people in power, the people with guns to stop the violence now.”
After steadily declining for over a decade, hunger is on the rise again and of the 815 million hungry people on the planet, 489 million live in countries affected by conflict, the annual UN report on food security and nutrition revealed last month.
“I have just been to Bangladesh where I witnessed the heartbreak of families who saw their family homes burn down in Myanmar, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “They fled with nothing, abandoning their farms, leaving their jobs and arriving hungry and malnourished after a nightmare journey.”
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report found that while most countries had achieved significant gains in reducing hunger in the last 25 years, progress in the majority of countries affected by conflict had stagnated or deteriorated. Conflicts can devastate the economy, disrupt agriculture and lead to forced population movements.
A WFP study published earlier this year established a link between hunger and migration. It found that countries with the highest level of hunger, coupled with armed conflict, have the highest outward migration. For each additional year of conflict and bloodshed, an extra 40 people out of 10,000 will flee their country. It showed that people often move several times within their own country before crossing borders, leaving behind their land, jobs and livelihoods.
“In the Islamic Republic of Iran, WFP currently provides assistance to 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi refugees who have fled their countries over the past 30 years due to war and conflicts. WFP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions and funding this operation for more than 30 years has been a challenge,” says WFP Representative and Country Director in Iran Negar Gerami. “As of January next year, WFP is planning to provide the people we serve with a combination of cash and food assistance that will require a budget of US$6 million per year.”
In war-torn countries, where agriculture and trade is disrupted and the economy collapses, the cost of a simple, nutritious plate of food can be more than a day’s wages. WFP has developed an index where we have worked out the cost of a basic plate of food to people in 33 developing countries as a share of their average daily income. In Counting the Beans: The True Cost of a Plate of Food around the World, we show that in South Sudan, for example, the cost could be the equivalent of a New Yorker having to pay US$321 for a modest lunch – say a plate of bean stew -- cooked at home. At the height of the siege of the Syrian town of Deir Ezzor, the same meal worked out at nearly US$200.