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Concern Worldwide has developed an international advocacy strategy which will guide the advocacy work of the organisation until 2025. Key to that strategy will be a thematic focus on hunger, and in particular, how conflict and climate change impact upon, and intersect with, global hunger. In 2020, emergencies caused by the locust swarm in East Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic are already exacerbating hunger and its structural causes in affected areas. These and other significant developments in 2020 have presented major potential setbacks in the progress towards ensuring food and nutrition security and in achieving SDG2 by 2030.

Global hunger is on the rise, with 690 million people undernourished at the beginning of 2019. (GHI 2020, SOFI 2020). This means that roughly 8.9% of the world’s population are currently hungry. Before COVID-19, 135 million people were already acutely food insecure, across 55 food crises globally. WFP now predicts that the number of acutely food insecure people could double to 265 million in 2020 (IPC/CH 3 or worse) as a result of COVID-19, as already unequal and inefficient food systems and supply chains, as well as livelihoods, education and remittance flows continue to be disrupted. Africa is disproportionately affected, with over half of those suffering acute food insecurity located on the continent, and this trajectory is only set to worsen.

Such extreme and growing rates of hunger is not an inexplicable phenomena. Conflict and climate shocks, along with economic turbulence, were yet again identified as the key drivers of hunger in 2020. Indeed, most of the world’s worst food crises of 2020 are in countries affected by both conflict and climate shocks including – Yemen, DRC, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, and Northern Nigeria. These countries also feature among the most vulnerable and least prepared to adapt to climate change, according to the ND-GAIN Index. In 2019, conflict pushed 77 million people into acute food insecurity globally, while weather extremes pushed a further 34 million into food insecurity – the latter an increase of 5 million from the previous year.

A general worsening of acute food insecurity is now being observed across several countries compared with the situation reported in 2019 as per the Global Report on Food Crises 2020 from April this year. Conflict-induced food insecurity and the risk of famine is on the rise in certain places, including in the DRC, North-east Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, Sahel. In the Central African Republic, over 50% of the population are now acutely food insecure, while the prevalence of acute food insecurity in Burkina Faso has increased by 300% this year. Food insecurity levels in Sudan have increased by 64% compared to that of last year and in Somalia it has increased by 67%.

Food insecurity, and food systems may also be contributing to climate change and conflict, in ways that have not yet been fully articulated or captured. For instance, we know that the food system contributes 21-37 percent of total net human-caused emissions of greenhouse gasses and accounts for 70 percent of freshwater use. Agriculture – cropping and pasturage – occupies nearly 40 percent of global land, while intensive livestock production has been the most significant cause of biodiversity loss in recent decades. Again we may also see the impact of Covid-19 play an exacerbating role in this interplay.

Crises are also becoming more protracted. Even prior to Covid-19, the humanitarian system, as it is currently structured, struggled to respond to these often-protracted and recurrent crises, extreme weather events and natural hazards in a way that meets the ever-increasing needs, or in such a way that is conducive to ensuring sustainable well-being, stability and development.

Although protection, resilience building and risk-reduction have long been recognised as essential components of humanitarian response, in working towards addressing root causes, it is now clearer than ever that simply reacting to needs as they occur (repeatedly) is no longer feasible nor sustainable. In contributing to global efforts in addressing current root causes of needs, we must better map, understand and communicate the actual and quantifiable field-level impact, as well as lived experience of how the intersection between hunger, conflict and climate plays out in our countries of operation. In order to propose solutions and approaches that respond to the needs of the poorest people, we must acknowledge and understand the impact of multiple and diverse shocks on their lives. This will deepen our understanding and inform our programme approaches, guide our advocacy and enhance and steer response practices.

At a minimum, the intersectionality between conflict, climate and hunger, and how this materializes on the ground (manifestations, root causes and impacts) – particularly within pre-designated countries (Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Niger, DRC and CAR) – will be explored and described. The role of governance dynamics, existing monitoring mechanisms and related gaps should also be examined and described. Suggested lines of enquiry could include, but not limited to, issues surrounding resource scarcity (ensuing conflicts, pattern predictions etc.); displacement patterns (climate and conflict-related movements, e.g. Somalia); ongoing responses of both aid actors and governments, and related observable corollary gaps; how these dynamics can be better recorded, tracked and monitored.

This will pave the way for exploring how to strengthen disaster risk reduction activities and resilience building, programmatically, over the longer-term, as well as on establishing robust early warning systems, to allow governments, affected communities and individuals to better withstand and adapt to shocks and hazards as and when they will inevitably occur and to more feasibly and efficiently plan for and mobilise anticipatory responses as needed.

Concern Worldwide has extensive experience in responding to hunger and extreme poverty globally, and our programme activities already span responses to conflict and climatic events, including in many of the world’s worst food crises. As such, we have an especially authoritative voice and a wealth of field experience with which to propel the conversation forward with regards to the root causes of hunger.

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