Strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security in Africa

For too long, nutrition, food security, conflicts, climate change, ecosystems and health have been treated as separate issues.

But these global challenges are deeply interconnected.

Conflict creates hunger. The climate crisis amplifies conflict.

Economic insecurity is heightened by the pandemic and by inequalities in resources allocated for recovery.

These problems are systemic; and they are getting worse. Decades of progress on hunger are being reversed.

After improving steadily in all regions between 2000 and 2016, hunger has sharply increased in recent years. Over 281 million Africans – one in five – were undernourished in 2020.

Sixty-one million African children are affected by stunting, which can impact their physical and mental health throughout their lives.

As always, women and girls are the most affected.

When food is short, they are often the last to eat; and the first to be taken out of school and forced into work or marriage.

UN humanitarian aid

Our humanitarian operations are doing their utmost to help. Just last week, I announced the release of $30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund, to meet urgent food security and nutrition needs in Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso, bringing the total funding channeled through CERF in the Sahel to nearly $95 million since the start of the year.

But this is a drop in the ocean. Humanitarian aid cannot compete with the systemic drivers of hunger.

External shocks are further exacerbating the situation.

An uneven recovery from the pandemic has put many developing countries on the brink of debt default. Inequality is enormous in that regard.

The war in Ukraine has led to the highest food prices on record.

African countries are among those most heavily impacted – especially when this is coupled with rising energy bills and limited access to finance.

I convened the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, involving all UN agencies and international financial institutions, to provide data and analysis, and to propose solutions.

The group immediately recommended that all food export restrictions should be lifted; strategic reserves should be released; and surpluses allocated to countries in need.

It is clear that solving this crisis also requires reintegrating Ukraine’s agricultural production and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets – despite the war.

I am continuing to pursue efforts to find common ground on this vital issue, for people around the world.

Building resilience

Building resilience also requires addressing the climate crisis.

African farmers are on the frontlines of our warming planet, from rising temperatures to droughts and floods.

Africa needs a massive boost in technical and financial support, to adapt to the impact of the climate emergency, and provide renewable electricity across the continent.

Fifty per cent of climate finance must be allocated to adaptation.

And developed countries must deliver on their $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries.

We are also advocating for immediate action from international financial institutions, so that developing countries, especially in Africa, can invest in a strong recovery from the pandemic, based on renewable energy.

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