Armed conflicts and climate change are key factors being blamed for a rise in worldwide hunger—the first in over a decade, according to a new United Nations report.
Malnutrition and food insecurity affected 815 million people around the world in 2016—up from 777 million the previous year. Many of the countries where people suffer the most from hunger have been affected by armed conflicts. Conflicts between armed groups has gone up by 125 percent since 2010, often growing into larger wars and affecting countries including Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan, where the situation spiraled into a famine for several months earlier this year.
The report casts doubt on the U.N.’s stated aim to eradicate hunger by 2030—a theoretically achievable goal, considering, as the U.N. stressed when it announced the goal, the amount of food in the world is more than enough to feed the global population.
“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore,” said the authors of the report, who represent five U.N. agencies. “We will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.”
A rise in armed conflicts since 2005 has led to an explosion in the worldwide refugee population, leading to greater food insecurity for 64 million people.
The report also names the destruction of wheat and barley fields in Iraq, damage to infrastructure in Syria, and the loss of livestock and crops in South Sudan as effects of conflict which are linked to hunger.
Climate change has led to chronic hunger around the world as well, especially in places impacted by drought and flooding. Even in places not currently impacted by ongoing fighting, according to the report, climate change can have a domino effect on the region—creating conflict over scarce fertile land and water, and in turn leading to food insecurity:
Competition over productive land and water has been identified as a potential trigger for conflict…Sources estimate that over the past 60 years, 40 percent of civil wars have been associated with natural resources.
“The concurrence of conflict and climate-related natural disasters is likely to increase with climate change,” the report says, “as climate change not only threatens food insecurity and malnutrition, but can also contribute to further downward deterioration into conflict, protracted crisis and continued fragility.”