Climate change and conflict could fuel hunger in 2020

10Jan 2020
Correspondent
The Guardian
Climate change and conflict could fuel hunger in 2020

MILLIONS of people across Sub-Saharan Africa could face grave hunger in the first half of 2020 because of armed conflict, political instability and climate change-linked disasters, a report says.

By  Issa Da Silva

The report published by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) this month says that the countries affected will require life-saving food assistance and investment to prevent humanitarian catastrophes.

According to estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 70.8 million people are displaced worldwide by war, violence and persecution, with low- and middle-income countries bearing the brunt of the problem.

“In some countries, we are seeing conflict and instability combine with climate extremes force people from their homes, farms and places of work,” said Alexandre Le Cuziat, World Food Programme

Climate change seems to be creating refugees on its own, with the World Bank estimating in a 2018 report that over 140 million are expected to migrate within countries by 2050, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

“In some countries, we are seeing conflict and instability combine with climate extremes force people from their homes, farms and places of work,” says Alexandre Le Cuziat, a co-author of the WFP report.

“In others, climate shocks are occurring alongside economic collapse and leaving millions on the brink of destitution and hunger.”

The WFP report is an internal analysis that is compiled every two months and used to identify countries of high prioritisation for emergency assistance. The agency identified critical and complex emergencies at risk of descending further into crisis without a rapid response and greater investment.

Le Cuziat, a senior conflict analyst with the WFP, says that the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Central Sahel region comprising Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are more vulnerable to hunger.

“Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst drought in decades, with temperatures hitting over 40 degrees Celsius. This has severely affected food production and highlights the severe impacts of climate change affecting the broader sub-region, which has seen the worst drought in 35 years,” Le Cuziat explains.

“South Sudan remains embroiled in a bitter conflict which has pushed millions into hunger and malnutrition. Meanwhile the Central Sahel faces a toxic cocktail of rapidly escalating armed conflict, population displacement, hunger and widespread poverty, compounded by the effects of climate change.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo is seeing large scale displacement and food insecurity amid persistent insecurity and conflict, which are compounded by lack of humanitarian access and repeated climate shocks.”

Action is needed now to save lives, and that without sustained funding, crucial humanitarian assistance that could mitigate the impact of disasters and prevent humanitarian catastrophes is under threat, explains Le Cuziat, adding that the WFP would require more than US$10 billion to fully fund all of its operations in more than 80 countries around the world in 2020.

Dougbedji Fatondji, leader of sorghum and millet compact of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation, tells SciDev.Net: “The WFP 2020 [forecast], if shared with the relevant government authorities, should attract responses from leaders as food security remains a key goal of the African Union enshrined in its Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want”.

But Fatondji emphasises that for the threat of famine to be mitigated this year, these countries and many across the continent will have to increase funding to the agricultural sector in line with the 2014 Malabo declaration on accelerated agricultural growth which prescribes a minimum of ten per cent national budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector.