The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010: Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises

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Following more than a decade of seemingly inexorable increases in the number of undernourished people, estimates for 2010 presented in this edition of The State of Food Insecurity in the World show a slight glimmer of hope, with the first fall since 1995. But that still leaves nearly a billion people going hungry, and it is too early to know if this is the beginning of a downward trend or merely a momentary dip in the number of undernourished.

This year, The State of Food Insecurity in the World focuses on a particular group of countries, countries in protracted crisis, where levels of undernourishment are estimated to be at almost 40 percent. It examines the difficulties faced in trying to turn around the situation in such countries, not least the difficulty of moving beyond the mindset of humanitarian intervention towards a broader-based development agenda.

The report highlights actions that can be taken to rationalize the way protracted crises are handled. These include more holistic assessment of the crisis itself, including a deeper understanding of the drivers of crises; building on local community responses and institutions; introducing or supporting social protection mechanisms such as food-based safety nets; and moving from food aid to a broader-based food assistance approach.

The final section of the report provides recommendations on ways to improve engagement with countries in protracted crisis. These focus on improving the analysis and understanding of protracted crises; supporting the protection, promotion and rebuilding of livelihoods and the institutions that support and enable livelihoods; and changing the architecture of external intervention in protracted crises to match the reality on the ground.

As this edition of The State of Food Insecurity in the World shows, there are many challenges facing countries in protracted crisis. But they are not insurmountable - there is hope. Through improved understanding of the nature of protracted crisis comes the ability to respond more effectively. Lessons from the experience of many countries show that with careful attention to livelihoods, strengthening longer-term assistance to existing local institutions, investing in social protection mechanisms and transitioning from food aid to food assistance are all powerful and fundamental tools for addressing the root causes of protracted crises. This report illustrates that there are many positive experiences to learn from through which to better address the multiplicity of issues, including that of extremely high undernourishment, in countries in protracted crisis.