For the first time in ten years, world hunger is again on the rise.

815 million people, 11% of the global population is hungry. 38 million more than in 2015. (SOFI 2017).

What is alarming is that this increase is not driven by the lack of food, but by the large number of man-made violent conflicts that have tripled in recent years.

While hunger and deprivation are the underlying causes of endemic conflict and civil violence (The Bruntland Commission , 1987),  conflicts are development in reverse (Paul Collier). They destroy farming resources, disrupt food transportation systems, destroy farm assets and capital, and induce young men and women to fight, forcing them away from farm work, and suppressing income-generating activities.

These conditions of underdevelopment force people to leave their homes to seek safety internally or across borders, often risking their lives (65.6 million people migrated in 2016, this means 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day (UNHCR global trends 2016 Report)), while those who decide to remain or cannot afford to leave, are destined to face disease, hunger, malnutrition, and often death. Approximately 167 million undernourished people live in countries in conflict and protracted crisis today; roughly 1/5 of the global population (FAO).

While the human cost of armed conflict is certainly devastating, the number of people dying from the indirect effects of war is even higher. What is intolerable is that a huge number of people have died who would otherwise have lived if armed violence had not ravaged their communities.

Something must be done to stop and prevent these conflicts.

The nature of conflicts has seen a shift to internal battles, often with regional dimensions and with a multiplicity of armed actors, which calls for the intervention of impartial international organizations to mediate between countries, different ethnic groups and various armed factions.

While political settlements are fundamental to sustainable peace, addressing the root cause of suffering by eliminating hunger can make a significant contribution.

Agriculture is the dominant sector supporting the livelihoods of the majority of households in fragile and post-conflict countries.  Interventions to recover local agriculture and food markets, combined with greater food price stability can help vulnerable households regain access to market and weaken some of the causes of the conflict, including those that may lead individuals to join armed groups.

Much official development assistance (ODA) to countries affected by conflict is provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, focused on short-term responses and leaving insufficient support for longer-term investments.  Furthermore, the support to the agriculture sector is in dramatic decline.  The percentage of support versus requirements under the consolidated appeal process for the agriculture sector was 27% in 2016 against 58% in 2011 (OCHA Financial Tracking System).

It is clear, however, that addressing the root causes of conflict is not a global political priority. The world continues to spend much more energy and resources in managing crises than preventing them. Conflict, terrorism and political instability have cost the world USD 13.6 trillion in 2016 (Global peace index).

Hunger triggers violence. Conflicts lead to food insecurity that in turn pushes people to migrate, – affecting economically and socially host countries- and kill indirectly those who stay or force them to join armed groups to survive.

Agriculture restores food security, generates jobs, gives back dignity to the population and hope for a better future for the young; it reduces migration, prevents conflicts and helps reinstate peace.

Governments need to review their priorities and agree that global defense starts by investing in ending crises, averting famine, and breaking the vicious circle between hunger and conflict.



Nadine Kayal

Programme Officer

Office of Support to Decentralized Offices

Food and Agriculture Organization of the Unites Nations (FAO)

The views expressed in this information product are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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  • gicecca  Il ottobre 18, 2017 alle 5:48 am

    “This year, as the millennium development goals (MDGs) expire, the United Nations and the international NGO community are rallying around the conclusion that this has been “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”. Poverty has been cut in half, they tell us, and hunger – the other big goal of the MDGs – has taken a serious hit, falling narrowly shy of the target. It’s a powerful story, and provides compelling evidence for those eager to convince us that the global economic system is basically on the right track; that whatever we’re doing, we need to do more of it.

    But for anyone who has been following the hunger numbers, the UN’s conclusion is a little surprising. After all, until very recently they were reporting that the number of hungry people in the world had been steadily rising over the past two decades, not falling. When the world’s governments first set up the World Food Security pledge in 1996 with a vow to cut the number of people suffering from hunger in half, there were 788 million hungry people in the world. In 2009, according to their reports, there were 1,023 million, or about 30% more.”.

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    Attenzione: che significa essere “hungry”? La definizione é tutto ? GiC

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