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18.11.2015 | Blog

More wars, more hunger?

We take a look at the complex relationship of hunger and armed conflicts

Distribution of food.
Kerstin Bandsom Team Communications

In 2014, more than 13 million people had to leave their home countries. The majority of them fled from armed conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Countries with armed conflicts are often the worst-scoring countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) with regard to their hunger levels.

Armed conflicts undermine the food and nutrition security of people in many respects:

Almost two-thirds of all children who suffer from chronic undernutrition are currently living in developing countries affected by armed conflicts. Twenty years ago it was less than half. At national level, military spending is frequently being increased and resources removed from development-related areas, such as agriculture, rural and social infrastructure. The conflict researcher Paul Collier calculated that, in a country with an armed conflict, economic growth reduces by an average of 2.3 per cent and that it takes 17 years to make up for this loss.

Coping with armed conflict and hunger

Hunger increases the risk of conflict

But is food and nutrition insecurity also a cause of violent conflict? The so-called ‘hunger riots’ as a reaction to food price increases in 2008 in Haiti or the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 would suggest this.

However, the reality is more complex and the scarcity of food is usually only one of many reasons responsible for the outbreak of violent conflicts. This is particularly the case in countries that are heavily dependent on food imports.

Poverty is one of the main factors that leads to armed conflicts.

Weak governmental structures, stagnating economic growth, high youth unemployment and unequal access to income, land and natural resources create the foundations for the marginalisation of whole population groups and create a climate of hopelessness, making people more receptive to strategies of violence.

How are climate change and conflicts connected?

A much-debated relationship exists between the effects of climate change and conflicts. There are significant overlaps between countries that are particularly susceptible to climate-induced disasters and those with recurring armed conflicts, such as the extended region around the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan) and the Sahel zone of West Africa. Extreme weather events like droughts and the resulting food shortages can give rise to or aggravate conflicts. Nevertheless, the ability or inability of governments to ensure the participation of all population groups in the decision-making process and to react adequately to humanitarian crises

How can the cycle of hunger and war be broken?

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