Food insecurity has become an enormous problem. In 2019, WFP estimated that 145 million people were facing acute food insecurity. Now the organization predicates 345 million people are facing insecurity. The combination of climate change shocks, COVID-19, and conflict has pushed several countries, such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Yemen, to a very real risk of famine.
Action on food insecurity today is “more important than ever”, Valerie Guarnieri, WFP Assistant Executive Director, said. Among those particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of food insecurity are refugees and internally displaced people.
“When fleeing many refugees sell or are forced to leave behind their assets their journey to safety is often full of dangers. Family and community support systems breakdown. They usually lose their income and often find themselves with no option but to employ harmful strategies as coping mechanisms.”
Coping mechanisms refer to tactics a family or community employs to compensate for a loss in income. In response to COVID-19 lockdowns, UNHCR reported instances of transactional sex, early marriage, child recruitment, and trafficking in person across its operations.
Raouf Mazou, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, said special attention must also be paid to the specific plights of women and girls, he argued. In searching for food, displaced women and girls are at an increased risk of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and child and forced marriages.
In Somalian regions affected by drought, gender-based violence has gone up 200 percent since 2021, Mazaou noted. He pointed to several factors that may lead to violence when a community is facing food insecurity.
“Food insecurity increases the risk of violence, neglect and exploitation and abuse of children. Girls may drop out of school at a higher percentage rate than boys when families are unable to afford school fees for all their children. Household sent children in search of food work on pasture for livestock exposing them to increased risks.”
The food crisis is also affecting the ability of host countries to provide for refugees. Ethiopia, the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, is on the brink of famine. The country is reckoning with the historic drought hitting the Horn of Africa region, which is severely threatening its food networks. The drought has wiped away important nutrition sources that refugees rely on, such as cattle and water wells. Kassaye explained that the lack of natural resources means refugees can only rely on humanitarian assistance. Yet, as a result of funding constraints, in June, the WFP had to reduce its rations for refugees in Ethiopia by 50 percent.
“It is indeed troubling to learn that the level of support by international humanitarian agencies is reported to have decreased due to the funding shortages. In our view, urgent measures are needed if we’re to respond to the people in need of assistance in a timely and effective manner,” Yoseph Kassaye, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN, pointed out.
Refugees Most Vulnerable in Ongoing Food Insecurity Crisis - UN | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)
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