In March 2017 the Food Security Information Network (FSIN)1 sounded the alarm globally to call the attention to a looming famine putting the lives of more than twenty million people at risk across four conflict and drought affected countries: Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Northern Nigeria, reaching into the countries around the Lake Chad Basin. Despite consolidated efforts by humanitarian actors to avert famine, the situation in these countries is, according to FAO, still only one step below famine. In South Sudan 6 million people – almost half of the population – are severely food insecure with pockets of declared famine (IPC 5); in North Eastern Nigeria 5.2 million people are severely food insecure of which 3.4 million suffering from severe acute malnutrition; in Somalia 3.2 million and in Yemen 6.8 million people are severely food insecure due to the compounding effect of drought, conflict, displacement and insecurity. Furthermore, Yemen is affected by an unprecedented cholera epidemic, with almost 900,000 suspected cases. The current total closure of Yemen's borders, which amounts to a de facto blockade, only aggravates the suffering of the population by blocking access for humanitarian aid and the importation of consumer goods. People are displaced from their homes and forced to abandon their assets, livelihoods, crops, and land, leaving them without a safety net. In Northeastern Nigeria for instance, 2.5 million of people have been displaced due to the conflict, thereby having lost all their assets and exposing them to hunger. Likewise, in Somalia, around 1.5 million and in South Sudan 1.88 million of people have been internally displaced and 2.1 million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, in search of security and food. Yet, the UN appeals for the four countries are only covered between 54.5% and 66% at the end of 2017.
On 29-30 November 2017, the African Union and the EU will meet in Abidjan for the 5th AU-EU Summit. This Summit, while focusing on youth, provides an opportunity to jointly find solutions for the populations trapped in conflict and/or obliged to abandon all their assets and livelihoods to flee for their lives. This situation is an issue for both African countries and the EU and this summit should be the moment where the dire consequences of man-made crises, hunger in its worst form and forced displacement of populations, is addressed. To do so, it is essential that European and African countries start addressing man-made crises and risks of famine effectively.
Hunger, and in particular famine, will not be averted unless violence and conflicts, as well as forced displacement, are being addressed as key aggravating factors. Albeit challenging, it is an absolute necessity that the interconnection between hunger, displacement and conflicts be fully understood and tackled.
Supporting community resilience, access to basic services, including health and education and early warning systems, promoting sustainable development models and a rights-based approach are solutions towards eradicating hunger, poverty and leaving no one behind. We urge African and European decision-makers to use their influence to ensure that warrying parties engage in peace dialogue while guaranteeing free and unimpeded access to basic services to all people affected.
In a conference organized by Action Against Hunger and Danish Refugee Council on 21 November 2017 in Brussels, eight recommendations have been highlighted to help break the vicious circle between hunger, conflict and displacement of populations.
The agencies call on:
The African Union, the EU and Member States to use political and diplomatic influence to engage parties in the resolution of the conflicts currently putting more than 20 million lives at risk, for the protection of civilians during conflicts, to ensure the access of the most vulnerable population to humanitarian aid and to address the root causes of hunger during conflicts;
The African Union, the EU and Member States to promote and respect humanitarian access to ensure that people in need, including displaced populations, receive assistance and avert hunger. This includes improving coordination of the humanitarian response by enhancing dialogue between NGOs and security forces to ensure a clear distinction between humanitarian and military mandates, and to facilitate the unhindered delivery of aid wherever it is needed;
The African Union, the EU and Member States to adopt a rights based approach and put protection of civilians at the centre of all policies and responses, to ensure that displaced populations, and in particular women and girls, are not forced into secondary displacement due to lack of protection and violation of rights. This includes for instance halting returns of refugees and IDPs to areas with no adequate access to basic services and safety. Returns must be voluntary, safe, informed and dignified, with basic services available in areas of returns. Migration management should not be used as a bargaining chip for development funding;
The African Union, the EU and Member States to develop quicker, more flexible funding and prepositioning of relief materials to intervene as areas become accessible and ensure that pockets of hunger do not develop;
Ensure that food insecurity early warning systems fully integrate humanitarian access indicators to allow for a proper analysis of all factors impacting hunger;
The African Union, the EU and Member States to develop and implement specific mechanisms to ensure that all affected populations including refugees, IDPs, stateless persons and other categories of displaced people as well as host communities are effectively consulted and involved in the delivery of aid and development of projects;
The African Union, the EU and Member States to ensure adequate funding to build resilience and avert famine. All actors should significantly scale up the response to people’s needs, from supporting urgent basic services to early recovery and longer-term development programmes with the aim of eradicating poverty and leaving no one behind.
The European Union and its Member States to respect the principle of ownership of developing countries, ensure that development and humanitarian aid is meeting the needs of the communities and aims at achieving the objectives of leaving no one behind and eradicating poverty.
Véronique Andrieux, Action contre la Faim France CEO
Christian Friis Bach, Danish Refugee Council Secretary General