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Report: Conflict, Climate Affect Food Security

The International Food Policy research Institute has released its Global Food Policy Report, which says 2014 showed both progress and setbacks to food security. (Credit: IFPRI)
The International Food Policy research Institute has released its Global Food Policy Report, which says 2014 showed both progress and setbacks to food security. (Credit: IFPRI)

A new report says there were both advances and setbacks in food security in 2014. Poverty was reduced last year and the number of hungry people declined. However, conflict, climate change and disease disrupted food production and trade.

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The International Food Policy Research Institute has released its Global Food Policy Report. IFPRI Director- General Shenggen Fan listed some of the accomplishments of last year.

“We have achieved some progress. For example, we paid more attention to nutrition. We also think water, hygiene are very important in solving children’s under nutrition. We have also seen new commitments on trade and climate change – and [a] focus on family farming. The year 2014 was a year of family farming. So we made enough progress on various fronts.”

But Fan said 2014 had its share of threats to food security.

“For example,” he said, “persistent conflicts, reemerging of zoonotic diseases – avian influenza, Ebola – and continued extreme weather shocks – typhoon in the Philippines – rising food safety scandals – Taiwan, mainland China and beyond. [There was also the] higher prices of nutritious foods, such as vegetables and fruits, despite very stable grain prices for the last four or five years.”

Syria topped the list of conflicts in 2014 with its regional impact. Somalia and South Sudan are other examples of how conflict threatens food security for millions of people.

“We have seen the increased correlation between conflicts and increased malnutrition in many parts of the world. In the rest of the world, we have achieved tremendous progress in cutting hunger and malnutrition, although the number is still very high. But it is in some of the conflict zones that malnutrition is actually rising,” he said.

Fan said climate change has long-term consequences on food security. He says there are still some skeptics, despite the overwhelming number of studies confirming its effects.

“Increased floods, cyclones, droughts definitely should change their mind. And extreme weather events will happen more frequent and more extreme. That will affect the ability of human beings in producing more food and more nutritious food.”

The Global Food Policy Report said conditions for thousands of people fleeing violence in northern Nigeria, Central African Republic and Mali were made worse by low rainfall and drought. It said that a “lack of rain threatened the food and nutrition security and livelihoods of both hosting communities and refugees.”

The report added the occurrence of both “weather shocks and conflicts may not be coincidental”…and said that “abnormally high temperatures in Sudan and South Sudan…strongly raise the risk of conflict.”

The IFPRI Director-General said lessons about food security were learned during the Ebola crisis.

“The first lesson we learn is our global food system is very vulnerable to diseases. Ebola has [a] huge impact on people’s access to nutritious food. The production was interrupted. The market was disrupted. The trade does not come. For example, some of the rice exporting countries were very reluctant to send their grains to the Ebola affected countries,” he said.

The International Food Policy Research Institute also said middle income countries play a pivotal role in eliminating hunger and malnutrition. It said while Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico may be “rising economic powerhouses,” middle income countries are home to more than 360 million hungry people.

Fan said, “They are facing [a] triple burden of malnutrition. Hunger – 50 percent of the world’s hungry people live in these countries. Then, lack of micronutrients – Vitamin A, zinc, iron, and also increased obesity and overweight. So, they are facing triple burdens and the second burden, third burden arising very quickly.”

The IFPRI report called on governments of middle income countries to “reshape their food systems to focus on nutrition and health, closing the gender gap in agriculture and improving rural infrastructure.”

Fan said the report will be used to influence the writing of the Sustainable Development Goals. They’ll soon succeed the Millennium Development Goals. There could be as many as 17 SDGs compared to eight for the MDGs, and they could contain nearly 170 target areas.