Understanding and responding to the links between conflict and hunger

Rising food prices in the late 2000s sparked protests, sometimes violent, around the globe. These public expressions of outrage were only the tip of the iceberg. Many countries have a legacy of food wars. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least 14 countries faced severe food insecurity as a result of conflict, civil strife, forced displacement, or damage from past wars. Armed violence leads to ongoing cycles of food loss which have an impact on food availability, access, and nutrition. In turn, food insecurity can contribute to conflict, although the exact sequence tends to involve complex factors, including environmental scarcities and identity-based competition for access to and control over what are perceived to be limited resources. Policy attention is urgently needed to address these dynamics. Efforts to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable populations, to raise agricultural production, to build resilient food systems that contribute to global food and nutrition security, and to protect low-income people with safety nets must not lose sight of conflict legacies, especially in Africa. Programme-implementation strategies must proceed in a manner that will dampen, not heighten, conflict potential.