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Monitoring food security in countries with conflict situations: A joint FAO/WFP update for the United Nations Security Council (August 2018)

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Executive summary

This report provides United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members with an overview of the numbers of people in acute need of emergency food, nutrition and livelihood assistance in 22 countries/territories affected by conflict. It analyses the factors driving food insecurity and examines if those factors are a consequence of conflict and/or if they are driving further tension.

As the UNSC acknowledged in a recent landmark Resolution 2417 (2018), armed conflict and hunger are intrinsically linked. People caught up in or displaced by war are rarely able to access the food they need to live healthy and active lives – and the inability to grow or buy enough food can cause or exacerbate tensions and even create conflict. This report highlights implications for response and resource allocations to address the vicious cycle between armed conflict and food insecurity.

This is the fourth report that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have produced for the UNSC on food insecurity in countries/areas affected by conflict.

The report is produced in the context of the Global Network against Food Crises, a multi-partner initiative committed to bringing sustainable solutions to food crises through enhanced and shared food security analysis and strengthened coordination for evidence-based responses across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.

Countries with concerning food security situations

The situation in South Sudan is extremely concerning. Although large-scale humanitarian assistance helped to contain the escalation of famine in Leer and Mayendit counties of Unity State in early 2017, this report shows that South Sudan still faces the risk of famine in 2018.

In May–July 2018 almost two in three South Sudanese or 7.1 million people were expected to need urgent humanitarian food and livelihood support, 28 percent more than the projection for the same lean period a year earlier.

In the Sudan, instability, displacement and economic shocks have contributed to an increase in the percentage of acutely food insecure people from nine percent in April–June 2017 to 13 percent a year later, forecast to increase to about 14 percent between May and July 2018.

In Mali, escalating insecurity that is hindering the free movement of people and goods and disrupting livelihoods and access to basic services including drinking water, health services and education is compounded by lack of rainfall and floods along with high cereal prices, which have hit pastoralist communities in particular.

Nine years after the Boko Haram insurgency began in northeastern Nigeria, the situation appears to have improved compared to the same time last year, but the Lake Chad Basin humanitarian emergency remains one of the most severe in the world with millions of civilians facing high levels of hunger and malnutrition. In Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states around 3 million people were projected to require urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance from June to August 2018 up from 2.3 million in March–May 2018,3 but well below the 5.2 million in June to August 2017.

In Somalia, there has been an improvement since the lean period in 2017, when 3.2 million people needed urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance.4 5 However, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated since January 2018 as a result of the lingering effects of the 2016–2017 prolonged drought, floods and cyclone Sagar, disease and persisting insecurity. Some 2.5 million people were expected to require urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance during the April–June 2018 lean season compared with 1.6 million in January 2018, with a 73 percent rise in the number of people classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

While there was no updated information available for six conflict-affected countries (see Annex 2), the analysis indicates a continuing or worsening of food security outcomes in Yemen, Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon (Syrian refugees) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As Yemen enters its fourth year of conflict, it continues to be the world’s worst food crisis in 2018, particularly because of accessibility restrictions, the conflict-fuelled economic crisis and disease outbreaks. Although no recent IPC data is available, at least 17.8 million people – some 60 percent of the population – are estimated to require urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance. Now in its eighth year, the Syrian Arab Republic’s armed conflict intensified in early 2018 with civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib. As of April 2018, 5.6 million refugees were registered in five neighbouring countries, while those unable to flee have witnessed the Syrian Arab Republic’s downward spiral as widespread unemployment, economic sanctions, reductions in government subsidies, and wage cuts bring extreme poverty to many. In addition, the 2018 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission preliminary results indicate a decline in cereal production due to poorly distributed rainfall in the 2017/2018 season. In November 2017, 6.5 million people (33 percent of the population) remaining in the country were estimated to be food insecure.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo conflict-induced massive population displacements, high food prices and lack of earning opportunities along with localized floods, pests and epidemics continued to underscore a dire humanitarian situation in early 2018. It has become the African country most affected by population displacement with over 5 million people displaced in early 2018, including 4.5 million IDPs and more than 746 000 refugees/ asylum seekers in neighbouring countries. Although this report also provides 2018 figures for Afghanistan and the Central African Republic the percentage of the population analysed is not the same as in the previous report to the UNSC, so it is not possible to state accurately whether food insecurity has deteriorated or improved. However, the analysis of the key drivers of food insecurity points to a worsening of conditions in both Afghanistan, particularly in the northeast, and the Central African Republic, where armed conflict is persisting into its fifth year and triggering massive population movements.

In Afghanistan an evolving drought situation is aggravating intercommunal conflicts, displacing people and quashing income-earning opportunities, all of which undermine food security. In early 2018, food security deteriorated in the country’s northeastern region (Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Tankhar provinces) with one in three people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance between November 2017 and February 2018. Cautious optimism in a handful of fragile states Iraq and Guinea-Bissau have both seen an encouraging reduction in the numbers of people requiring emergency food and livelihood support since this report was last produced, while the situation appears to be improving somewhat in Haiti and Burundi too. But the people in these fragile states have seen their resilience to shocks severely eroded by years of crises. Work opportunities tend to be scarce, local currencies weak and they still have high numbers of vulnerable displaced people. It would only take a prolonged dry spell or a political setback on the road to peace and economic recovery for a dire humanitarian situation to re-emerge.

For instance, although Iraq is heading into a new phase with hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis heading back to their communities, years of conflict have caused widespread destruction of infrastructure, enfeebled the economy and displaced several million people. Almost two million people were still in need of food security assistance in February 2018.

In the Horn of Africa, the signing of the peace agreement on 9 July 2018 between the President of the State of Eritrea and the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a promising commitment for the overall regional peace, development and cooperation in achieving resilience and food security of the populations.

Refugees from neighbouring countries strain host populations This report also looks at countries (Uganda, Colombia and Lebanon) hosting high numbers of spillover refugees and the impact that they are having on host communities.

Uganda hosts Africa’s largest population of externally displaced people seeking refuge from conflicts in fragile neighbouring countries, most of them women and children. Although food security has improved thanks to favourable climatic conditions, the mass influx is straining the fragile resources of host communities, causing increased food insecurity for some local populations and creating tension with locals who feel the refugees get better access to food, healthcare, water supplies and even jobs.
Up-to-date food security assessments are vital The report underscores the fundamental need for up-to-date food security and nutrition information systems that provide near-real time assessments and monitoring of evolving and protracted situations in spite of access and funding challenges. Without accurate data, humanitarian and government actors cannot respond proportionately to meet the current needs of vulnerable people or work to prevent future crises, and the cycle between conflict and hunger will persist.

Ethiopia is among the countries not covered in this report but currently experiencing localized insecurity that is likely to jeopardize the food security of its people.

In Ethiopia close to one million people are believed to have been displaced due to escalating inter-communal violence since early June 2018. IDPs are mostly settled with already food insecure relatives or residing in cramped public buildings in the most densely populated parts of the country. In Myanmar, sporadic fighting and limited humanitarian access in affected areas of Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states have led to internal and international displacement, which have disrupted the livelihoods and undermined the resilience of local people. Continued movement restrictions obstruct physical and economic access to food, and constrain the already scarce livelihood opportunities available to the displaced and relocated populations.

Libya’s protracted political crisis and outbreaks of violence have caused displacement and affected livelihoods and access to basic social services. The contamination of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive 12 OCHA. 2018. Ethiopia: Escalating inter-communal violence displaces close to 1 million people, 27 June 2018. device, destruction of road infrastructure, administrative constraints, abduction threats, kidnapping of international personnel and proliferation of armed groups limit humanitarian access.

In West Africa and the Sahel, political instability, conflict and insecurity in some countries are further disrupting people’s usual ways of coping, hindering access and delivery of assistance, weakening food and trade flows, and causing displacement.

As highlighted by the Global Report on Food Crises 2018, a number of additional countries such as Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela among others face major data gaps.

Investing in data collection and assessments is important to ensure needs are not overlooked.
Unless peace and livelihoods are restored in the aforementioned countries, people in conflict zones will continue to go to bed hungry, to be unable to have enough energy to carry out their daily tasks and their children will face nutritional gaps that prevent them from growing and developing.

This report is set out as follows. The methodology section explains the criteria for selecting the countries included in it. The background section presents the evidence that alongside climate events conflict is the main driver of acute food insecurity in the world today. It briefly explains the ways in which conflict drives food insecurity and how food insecurity can drive conflict. It then presents individual country profiles, showing the most recent 2018 numbers of acutely food insecure people in 14 countries/territories affected by conflict and analysing the drivers of food insecurity in them. The final chapter gives a shorter analysis of the latest food security related developments in eight countries for which either no 2018 data was available or whose food security situation is now relatively stable.