Global report on food crises: Joint analysis for better decisions

Armed conflict, extreme climate events and economic crises remain the key drivers behind acute hunger and malnutrition according to the latest edition the Global Report on Food Crises. The 2019 edition, launched today as part of a High-Level Event of the Global Network Against Food Crises in Brussels, brings together regional and national data and analysis to present the latest global picture of acute food and nutrition insecurity and its trends and drivers.

According to the report, 113 million people across 53 countries experienced acute hunger in 2018, with Africa continuing to be disproportionately affected. Despite the improvement on the previous edition's estimate of 124 million, actions need to be scaled up if the ongoing food crises in countries like Yemen are to be alleviated.

In his address, FAO's José Graziano da Silva concurred with the findings of the report, emphasising the central role conflict plays in fuelling food crises, while also acknowledging that the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation have also contributed to the current situation.

FAO Programme Coordinator, Luca Russo, highlighted the entwined nature of the drivers of food crises, pointing out that conflicts are frequently the result of a scarcity or lack of access to natural resources.

Speaking during Parallel Session 2 of the High Level Event, IFAD's Margarita Astralaga mapped the way forward and made the case for integrated and coordinated action among organisations.

"It’s clear that without concerted action from all entities working in sustainable food systems we will not be able to face the great challenge of producing sufficient, diverse, healthy and nutritious food for a fast growing population", said Astralaga.

Astralaga also pointed to the need to address the environmental and climate drivers of food crises at the local level, a goal shared by the other Rome-based food agencies, FAO and WFP. To underscore her point, Astralaga outlined examples of innovative actions being undertaken at the local level by the agencies. These included the utilisation of early warning systems and forecasts to undertake pre-emptive action by WFP in Egypt and FAO in Eastern Africa, an inclusive, participatory IFAD-supported project in Bolivia and the dynamic R4 Rural Resilience Initiative which combines multiple risk management strategies.

Using the example of the coordinated RBA work in the Central American Dry Corridor, Astralaga described the vast potential benefits that arise from well-orchestrated, collaborative action.

"In this geographic area, the three of us work together based on our mandates and strengths", explained Astralaga. Believing that investments in long-term resilience can reduce the impact and cost of disasters, the three agencies are involved in policy dialogue with governments and decision-makers in the region.

In response to the 2015 El Niño event, IFAD supported small-scale farmers as they strove to adapt to the impacts of climate change and increase their long-term resilience to extreme weather events. FAO’s work in the region involves strengthening the disaster risk management capacities of national and local authorities and setting up information and early warning systems. WFP provided assistance to one million people annually in 2014 and 2015 in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, primarily through cash-based transfers.

If progress in relation to food crises is to continue, then the continuation and scaling up of such actions will be of paramount importance, particularly as climate change becomes more entrenched in the coming years. The multi-dimensional nature of the problem demands a range of expertise and experience, and only operations involving multiple stakeholders can deliver.