In recent years, the number of people experiencing hunger – both chronic and acute – has been alarmingly and persistently high. The annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World has repeatedly flagged global attention to the steady rise in the number of people experiencing hunger and malnutrition (815 million people in 2016 and 821 million in 2017), focusing on the role that conflict and climate change play in deepening hunger and vulnerability. At the same time, the annual Global Report on Food Crises has drawn attention to the growing number of people facing acute hunger.
Last year, 2018, was no exception. Some 113 million people in 53 countries suffered from acute hungry, according to the Global Report. That is 113 million girls, boys, men and women, old and young, who were unable to access enough food and required humanitarian assistance.
Much of this hunger is driven by stresses – conflict, climate and economic shocks – that have disrupted livelihoods and left people unable to meet their needs. However, for the most part, the stress is the result of a constant erosion of livelihoods and food systems – as a result of climate change, conflict and political instability, environmental degradation and repeated shocks.
For the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), building resilient agriculture-based livelihoods and food systems is at the core of its efforts to fight acute hunger and avert food crises.
We know how critical humanitarian assistance is – for example in Yemen, where the scale of hunger and human suffering is staggering but which would be considerably worse without the provision of humanitarian assistance.
At the same time, it is clear that humanitarian assistance on its own is not enough to win the battle against acute hunger. That is why FAO’s humanitarian work is firmly embedded in a foundation of building resilience.
This was demonstrated in 2018, when our work extended from immediate humanitarian response to protect lives and livelihoods in some of the most complex contexts in the world, including South Sudan and Yemen, to addressing the vulnerability of pastoral populations and facilitating the development of livestock feed balances in the Horn of Africa, to supporting disaster risk reduction efforts from the Philippines to central America.
This is the true strength of FAO’s resilience programme – using timely information and analysis, a strong evidence base and building on experiences in different contexts to safeguard and build resilient agriculture-based livelihoods and food systems even in times of crisis.
Last year, FAO’s resilience programme reached 25 million people through a combination of short- and medium-term actions intended to ensure their continued access to food, reduce acute hunger and build resilience.
However, as always, this number represents just a portion of those in need. In 2018, 44 percent of the funds requested under various appeals was received, meaning that millions of farmers, herders, fishers and foresters remained without critical livelihoods assistance. In 2019, we will continue working with our partners to ensure we make the best use of limited resources and reduce the number of people that need our assistance by focusing much more on addressing the root causes of their vulnerability.
This publication offers us an opportunity to reflect on some of our achievements over the past year and identify how we can do better in the future. It is not an exhaustive list of all of FAO’s resilience work, but rather an overview of what we can achieve and how much more there is to be done.
No one agency can tackle food crises on its own. That is why FAO is actively engaging with a wide range of partners at country, regional and global levels. In 2018, this included strengthening our partnership with the other two Rome-based Agencies (the IInternational Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD] and the World Food Programme [WFP]), as well as with other United Nations agencies, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), among others. We have also invested in our relationship with regional organizations like the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), and the Southern African Development Committee (SADC ), particularly in the context of food security information and analysis and resilience measurement.
In 2018, with considerable support from the European Union, we moved ahead in operationalizing the Global Network Against Food Crises, which focuses on preventing and addressing crises, bringing together actors across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, recognizing that it is only by tackling the root causes of hunger that we can avert food crises in the future.
In addition, greater investment in multi-year resilience programmes is critical. In 2018, we saw significant progress in developing and implementing such programmes, but they must become the norm and not the exception. Unless we invest at scale in building resilience – beyond a handful of projects that target 20 000 people here, 100 000 people there – we will not make significant gains in reducing acute hunger. That is the reality.
José Graziano da Silva