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Canada can do even more to boost aid to the world’s most needy

By Nyambura Githaiga      

After a 15-year decline in the number of undernourished people from 2000 to 2015, there was a spike in 2016 to 815 million, largely because of conflict and climate-related shocks.

Canada has committed to spending at least $250-million per year for food assistance, as part of the portfolio controlled by International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
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This year’s federal budget increased the baseline for humanitarian assistance to $738-million per year.

This is very good news. The new base should improve predictability and timeliness in responding to humanitarian crises. More resources should also advance Canada’s efforts to promote gender-responsive humanitarian action in the implementation of the Feminist International Assistance Policy and increase the multi-year commitment of funds to enable progress toward long-term solutions.

Canada can do even more, though. We applaud the increased allocation of much-needed resources for humanitarian assistance, even as we recognize the heightened need for greater investments to end hunger, reduce poverty, promote peace and security, and adequately respond to humanitarian emergencies. The growing need is a symptom of the current complex global crises.

Global hunger is an example of this growing need.

The 2017 report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World observed a potential reversal in the trend to end global hunger. This report was jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

It notes that after a 15-year decline in the number of undernourished people from 900 million in 2000 to 777 million in 2015, there was a spike in 2016 to 815 million, largely because of conflict and climate-related shocks. Sixty per cent of undernourished people and almost 80 per cent of stunted children live in conflict-affected countries. In several contexts (South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria), endemic drought and conflict combined to increase the risk of famine.

The prevalence of conflict and drought today are indicators that global hunger is likely to rise, writes Nyambura Githaiga of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Photograph courtesy of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Protracted conflict directly contributes to an increased need for food assistance to meet immediate food needs.

When violent conflict breaks out, segments of the population become food-insecure refugees or internally displaced persons. Conflict impedes the delivery of humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected populations. Conflict also disrupts food production, distorts markets, and contributes to economic decay, which lead to long-term food insecurity.

The prevalence of conflict and drought today are indicators that global hunger is likely to rise, making it an even greater challenge to attain the zero-hunger goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Beyond the essential resources required to respond to global hunger, strategic intervention is key to a decline in the number of chronically undernourished people. There should be effective coordination and collaboration between sectors dealing with food security, peace, development, and climate adaptation.

Under the 2016 Grand Bargain agreement of the Agenda for Humanity, Canada committed to improving humanitarian financing and delivery. One way is by enhancing engagement between humanitarian and development actors. To end hunger, better links between humanitarian and development sectors mean meeting immediate food needs as well as ensuring long-term food security.

Canada has done well in providing resources to respond to global hunger. As one of the 16 parties to the Food Assistance Convention, Canada commits at least $250-million per year to food assistance. This is part of an overall budgetary allocation of $5.5-billion (in 2018) for international development, part of which will support long-term food security initiatives.

Conflict has now emerged as a key driver of global hunger. Reducing the global incidence of violent and protracted conflicts must be a priority to achieve zero hunger by 2030. This calls for extending the humanitarian-development engagement to include the peace sector for sustainable food-security outcomes.

The crises are complex and the needs are great. Canada can do even more.

Nyambura Githaiga is a senior policy adviser at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The Hill Times

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