Conflict, Hunger and Famine-Children’s Future

To help stop a preventable tragedy from unfolding before our eyes, we need to provide lifesaving food for the next lean season and find conflict resolution measures.

By Constance Ndeleko

The complexity of disruptive phenomena such as, drought, conflict or social unrest and high food costs trigger famine. Generally, all have been plagued by decades of poverty, poor health and lack of basic infrastructure, including healthcare and education.

The unfathomable conflict in each country has forced people to flee their homes either within or beyond their border in hopes of finding a better life.

When conflict claws start to show, farmers are unable to plant crops on their land and agricultural production declines drastically. Thus, families cannot always access the food they need without encountering armed people with weapons standing between them and their basic necessities — and that’s if markets stay open. During conflict, many local markets shut down entirely, cutting people off from their primary sources of food.

— Severe drought and ongoing violence in East Africa has put 8.7 million people in Somalia and South Sudan at risk of severe food insecurity.

After more than five years of conflict, South Sudan remains one of the most food-insecure countries in the world. Almost 7 million people are severely food insecure, the highest in the country’s history, and 21,000 people are likely living in famine conditions.

Food insecurity hits children the hardest. 860,000 children in South Sudan and nearly 1 million in Somalia are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year. Access to treatment is seldom guaranteed. Globally, roughly 80% of acutely malnourished children do not have access to treatment.

NEW YORK, NY, JULY 31, 2019

Famine is an extreme shortage of food. Though the devastation it brings causes more than just hunger. “Famine is declared in an area when one in five households or more lack adequate food and other basic needs and acute malnutrition is greater than 30 percent — meaning people are underweight and unable to access and eat enough nutritious food.

In these situations, starvation and death are evident. By the time a famine has been declared, people are already dying of hunger: There are two deaths per 10,000 people every day, or four child deaths per 10,000 children every day.” (Mercy Corps)

When famine and conflict strikes, people who already lack food are at the greatest risk and the most vulnerable group include; children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the old.

Children need sustenance to grow and fully develop to realize their full potential thus pregnant and lactating mothers need to sustain their children which pushes them to make tough calls like reducing the number of meal per day, opting to first provide food to the primary wage earner or the parents opt to give children food first while they hope for another meal.

This call is necessary due to the press for needs however, the child doesn’t receive the needed nourishments especially if the mother is breastfeeding or pregnant.

In the recent years, we have witnessed spikes of Hunger and famine crises at several hot spots in Africa where millions of people, including countless children, are at risk of starvation.

Famines are acute food crises, usually after drought or due to armed conflict. Famine is the worst form of food shortage. In addition to old people, babies and small children are especially threatened by starvation. According to the United Nations definition (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification), there is a famine if at least:

  • 20% of households suffer from extreme food shortages,
  • 30% of the population is acutely malnourished; and
  • Two out of every 10,000 people, or four children, die daily from food shortages.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been documented as the hotbed of chronic hunger due to extreme poverty. According to the FAO definition, people suffer from chronic hunger if their daily energy intake for an extended period of time is below what they would need for a healthy and active life. The lower limit is an average of 1,800 calories per day. 

Children are particularly affected by the hunger crisis in Africa. There are far too many starving kids in Africa, every single affected kid is one too much. Malnutrition leads to physical and mental development delays and disorders and is a major cause of high infant mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • 3.2 million Children under the age of 5 die each year in sub-Saharan Africa – that’s about half of the world’s deaths in this age group.
  • The sub-Saharan child mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, with one in nine children dying before the age of 5. In Sierra Leone, one in every six children dies before the age of 5. Especially young children die in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In regards to armed conflicts: Africa has more than its share of trouble spots. Most wars in the world rage south of the Sahara. Refugee misery and hunger are the companions.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic-the threat of famine persists, as needs remain high due to prolonged conflict and drought. Without immediate support, 1.4 million of those at imminent risk of death are children.

The fight against hunger and famine remains one of the biggest challenges facing the world community. By 2030, the United Nations wants to end hunger. This was enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the UN adopted in 2015 as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals.

The impact of conflicts old and new, climate shocks and COVID-19, in addition to a lack of funding, have left millions more on the verge of famine than six months ago, the World Food Programme (WFP)


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