Monday, October 16, 2017

World Hunger Day

Hunger levels are surging globally, with crises escalating in Yemen and South Sudan. World Food Day is an annual reminder of the suffering still endured by so many millions around the world but this year is marks a day when hopes built up over years of progress in the fight against hunger have been dealt a cruel blow.  The misery endured today by those in need is beyond comprehension.

815 million people were suffering from hunger in 2016 — 38 million more than in the previous year.

The World Food Programme has called these figures an "indictment on humanity." The first step, the WFP says, is tackling a handful of the man-made root causes of hunger. Chief among them: conflict. Sixty percent of people who are hungry every day are living in countries suffering from conflict.

 The United Nations has warned that surging huger levels pose the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War Two. So far this year, Saudi Arabia — which is leading a coalition carrying out airstrikes in Yemen — has shelled out an estimated $12 million to the World Food Programme's emergency operation there. That compares to about $260 million from the United States

The World Food Programme's chief economist, Arif Husain warned of the potential that hunger has to fan the flames of extremism and conflict in crisis-hit areas. He cautioned that it can be key ingredient in a combination of factors that can lead those most vulnerable towards radicalization.
"Together, poverty, hunger and illiteracy are a cocktail which gets exploited by external factors in terms of extremism," Husain said"If we want to curb the menace of extremism — whether it is in northeast Nigeria or South Sudan or Yemen or Syria or elsewhere — you have to invest in those kids before they lose hope. We live in a globalized world. It is no longer somebody else's problem. It is our collective problem."

His warning has been echoed by Virginia Comolli a Senior Fellow for Security and Development at The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). "Poverty, including food shortages, have been known as factors exploited by jihadi groups to attract more recruits."  Her research into the rise of Nigeria-based Islamist group Boko Haram had recorded this phenomenon in the recruitment of some of the group's most vulnerable members. "In its early days, Boko Haram's rhetoric appealed to local northern Nigerians, as well as nationals from other Lake Chad Basin countries who would happily leave their towns affected by desertification, a shrinking Lake Chad and resulting fishing shortages, to listen to Boko Haram's sermons and benefit from micro loans offered by its leader," she said."Later on, group membership became an answer to unemployment for many of its followers."

"To eliminate hunger and malnutrition is a very solvable problem. We provide enough food and the economics of solving hunger makes sense, but we haven't done it." Husain said. While sustained humanitarian assistance is absolutely necessary to avert famine and saves lives, it is not sufficient to put an end to global hunger, Husain says. At least, not while ongoing and emerging conflicts show little sign of subsiding.

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