Vital to end the global hunger pandemic

Six of ten people who are starving live in a country affected by war and conflict. ‘We must ensure greater accountability for the use of starvation as a weapon of war,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.

Three years have passed since the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.  Hunger was once again a topic at today’s meeting of the UN Security Council, where Norway is currently serving as an elected member. In the statement from Norway, Mr Ulstein emphasised the need to ensure greater accountability when parties to a conflict prevent food aid from reaching people in need, or where starvation is literally being employed as a method of warfare.

‘Those with influence over parties to armed conflict where hunger is being used as a weapon must not only remind the parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law. They must also demand that they abide by these obligations. We can no longer accept that people are being starved to death as a war tactic. We must impose targeted sanctions where these are relevant and appropriate,’ said Mr Ulstein.

UN resolution 2417 calls on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, to minimise the impacts of military activities on civilians, including on food production and distribution, and to allow safe humanitarian access to civilians in need of food and medical assistance. 

Most of the countries in which the population is suffering from severe food insecurity (IPC 3 and 4) are also experiencing war or conflict. South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, DR Congo and the Tigray region in Ethiopia are some examples of this.

‘We cannot wait for famine to be declared before we start to react. People are dying long before the global community has classified a situation as a crisis. We must look into early-warning mechanisms so that we can prevent starvation and at the same time build resilience in local communities so they can better withstand natural disasters and conflict,’ said Mr Ulstein.

There are roughly 700 million people throughout the world who do not know where their next meal is coming from. Minister Ulstein finds it particularly worrying that many of these are women and children.

‘If hunger had a face today, it would most likely be a woman. Tomorrow it would probably be her child. The hunger pandemic affects families from one generation to the next. This is not just about filling empty stomachs today, it is about ensuring that communities get what they need to save their own crops and safeguard their own food production. We need to look at cash transfers and long-term investments, aid and early-warning mechanisms. Those who are affected must play a greater role in defining the strategies for moving forward,’ said Mr Ulstein.

‘We already have enough food in the world. We have to distribute it more equitably and we have to focus greater attention on the factors that lead to food shortages, such as climate change, pandemics and war. Most hunger crises are man-made. Millions of people are going to bed hungry every night. It is in our power to prevent this.’