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Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. This is a food crisis.

The world is facing food and security challenges. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 820 million people across the globe are under nourished and suffering from hunger and more than 151 million children under 5 are stunted because of lack of proper nutrition. Hunger and malnutrition continue to be an issue due pressure from stressors such as, population growth, income growth, economic resources, conflict and war, inequality, the refugee crisis, epidemics and climatic conditions.

War and Conflict

Food insecurity is increasingly concentrated in conflict-affected regions. All 19 countries the FAO currently classifies as being in a protracted food crisis are also currently affected by conflict and violence.

In conflict-affected countries, many households are smallholder farmers who face a high degree of income uncertainty even in the absence of conflict, primarily through weather shocks. Some are commodity suppliers to local, domestic or global markets, such as cocoa or coffee farmers, who are also subject to price fluctuations in these markets. As a result, conflict presents an additional shock that affects the livelihoods and well-being of these populations; and shape food security in other regions. In particular, recent studies indicate that production may drop substantially in regions affected by conflict due to adverse effects on labour supply, access to land, and access to credit and/or direct effects on capital such as theft and destruction (FAO, 2018).

Epidemics

Epidemics like HIV/AID, Ebola and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have had negative impacts on food security. In particular, vulnerable populations including children, women, the elderly and those living in poverty were most affected.

For example, when the Ebola epidemic had a huge impact on the economies of some African countries’ agricultural production, marketing and trade. Forty percent of the agricultural land was not cultivated due to road blockages; limited access to inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and insecticides; and labor shortage. Similarly, farmers could not transport their fresh produce to local and urban markets; and school aid could not be delivered to schools. The distribution chain was also impacted as supply chains were delayed and the workforce refused to travel to infected countries over fears of being infected. As a result, the price of staple foods in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone increased significantly. In particular, the price of rice increased by more than 30% and cassava increased by 150%.

Conversely, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) had relatively little impact on the economy and food security of the regions affected. This is largely due to the affected country’s (e.g. China, Singapore, Vietnam and Canada) resilience and ability to cope with emergencies. In these instances, the regions affected had enough food reserves and effective supply chains linking the domestic and international markets.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It was established in 1945, during World War 2, with the goal to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

What we would like you to do

Please share your thoughts on food insecurity

  • How can we provide food security across the globe ?
  • What opportunities do you think exist ?
  • What are the lessons learnt from previous epidemics?

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Food Supply Chains in a Time of Crisis

EIT Food