The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has condemned the trend of chronic starvation ravaging Nigeria and 45 other countries in the Sub Saharan region.
The organization on Friday said the statistics of people suffering from prolonged undernutrition in the region have increased as a result of adverse climatic conditions, a slow global economy and communal conflicts.
But the global body is advocating for an urgent need to strengthen resilient capacity of affected communities and provide peaceful solutions that would support food security.
According to FAO’s Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report (2017), the prevalence of chronic undernourishment appeared to have risen from 20.8 to 22.7 percent between 2015 and 2016.
FAO Assistant Director-General, Dr. Bukar Tijani, at the joint FAO/World Health Organization Symposium for Africa on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition, identified the above mentioned factors as being responsible for food insecurity in the region.
He spoke at the event themed: “The Food Security and Nutrition – Conflict Nexus: Building Resilience for Food Security, Nutrition and Peace,” held in Abidjan from November 16th to 17th.
He said: “The number of people undernourished rose from 200 to 224 million, accounting for 25 percent of the 815 million people undernourished in the world in 2016.”
Tijani, who is also FAO Regional Representative for Africa said, “Major factors have caused this surge in hunger: the proportion of the population that has experienced severe food insecurity because of their inability to access food has risen in the region; as well, adverse climatic conditions and conflict, often occurring concurrently, are key factors driving the recent increase in food insecurity in the region,”
In a statement by the FAO, the report indicates that during the first decade of the millennium, sub-Saharan Africa made sound progress in the fight against hunger with the prevalence of undernourishment falling from 29.1 percent to 20.6 percent.
However, according to the statement, this was followed by a period of no progress with a worsening of conditions in 2015 and 2016 in many countries. This was mainly due to the impact of conflict and to adverse climatic conditions such as repeated droughts – often linked to the El Niño phenomenon – resulting in poor harvests and the loss of livestock.
The hunger-conflict nexus
Tijani explained that, “In sub-Saharan Africa, a majority of the population undernourished in 2016, live in countries affected by conflict. The prevalence of undernourishment is about twice as high in conflict-affected countries with a protracted crisis than in countries not affected by conflict, and nutrition outcomes are also generally worse in these countries.
“A majority, or 489 million, of the 815 million people in the world that were undernourished in 2016 live in countries struggling with conflict, violence and fragility.
“Although the frequency of wars has decreased over the decades, there has recently been a surge in the number of violent conflicts and conflict-related deaths. Over one third of the world’s highly violent conflicts took place in sub-Saharan Africa and of 19 conflict-affected countries in protracted crises, 13 are in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Building household resilience
The FAO report further identifies a range of pathways through which support to food security and livelihoods can help build resilience against conflict and contribute to sustaining peace. “Given the complexity of conflicts and the conflict-food insecurity nexus, which climate change may amplify, a sustainable impact of food security and nutrition-related interventions on peace is more likely when implemented as part of a broader, multisectoral set of interventions before, during and after conflict.”
The report noted how many nations have developed, are developing policy frameworks and investment plans that are aligned with the goals of the Malabo Declaration and SDG 2. And this requires adequate funding, setting the right priorities and strengthening institutional capacities.
“Through the Malabo Declaration of 2014, African leaders reaffirmed the principles and values of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) recommitted their countries to end hunger and halve poverty by 2025, boost intra-African trade, and enhance the resilience of livelihoods and production systems to climate change and other shocks,” it stated.