“If you don’t feed people, you feed conflict”: Guterres

Famine is "Manmade"

17 Mar 2021 by The Water Diplomat
New YORK NY, United States

Antonio Guterres

Briefing an 11 March UN Security Council meeting on the link between conflict and food security, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made an impassioned plea for the Council to address conflict as the main cause of hunger around the world

“Conflict forces people to leave their homes, land and jobs, disrupts agriculture and trade, reduces access to vital resources like water and electricity, and so, drives hunger,” Guterres said, continuing, “Famine and hunger are no longer about a lack of food. They are now largely manmade, and I use the term deliberately.”

"At the same time, conflict forces people to leave their homes, land and jobs; disrupts agriculture and trade; reduces access to vital resources like water and electricity; and also drives hunger".  

Framing starvation as a “war crime” that has been used as a tactic in conflict-torn countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Myanmar, the UN chief urged the Council to “take maximum action to seek accountability for these atrocious acts”.

He pointed out that, at the end of 2020, more than 88 million people were suffering from acute hunger due to conflict and instability, marking a 20 Percent year-on-year increase, and warned that this escalation is continuing in 2021.

Referring to the disappointing outcome of the UN’s recent aid pledging conference for war-ravaged Yemen and reductions in humanitarian aid resulting from the Covid crisis, he argued that “the solution does not lie in cutting aid to starving children.”

He went on to state that women and girls face a double risk, saying: “They are more likely to be forced from their homes by conflict, and they are more vulnerable to malnutrition, particularly when pregnant or breast-feeding. Girls who are hungry are at increased risk of trafficking, forced marriage and other abuses.”

In a funding plea to the same meeting, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley highlighted the crisis in South Sudan, which he visited in early February and where “7.2 million people face acute food insecurity or worse”. He described conditions in Western Pibor where mothers had resorted to feeding their children with the skin of dead animals or even mud, adding, “Their suffering is the result of widespread conflict and the unprecedented floods that came in 2019 and 2020. These people are in the crossfire of conflict, while bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.”