MEDIA NOTE: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to Host a UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Conflict-Driven Hunger

United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release
March 10, 2021

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to Host a UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Conflict-Driven Hunger

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will host and deliver remarks during a UN Security Council high-level open debate on conflict and food security tomorrow, March 11. This open debate is the signature event of the U.S. presidency of the Security Council, and will aim to advance efforts by the Council, the United Nations, and Member States to break the cycle of conflict-driven food insecurity. Conflict is the primary driver of hunger worldwide, affecting tens of millions of people each year. The United States will highlight some of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crises, including in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Briefers will include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, and Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher.

Watch at 10:00 a.m. EST,

FACTSHEET: Conflict-Driven Hunger

Conflict is a leading driver of hunger, starvation, and acute malnutrition around the world, affecting tens of millions of people each year. In 2021, conflict-driven hunger is expected to surge to historic levels: the UN’s 2021 Global Humanitarian Overview projects that famine is looming in several countries due in large part to conflict and the World Food Program (WFP) anticipates more need than at any point in its 60-year history. This is an area where humanitarian diplomacy can save lives – which is why the United States is convening an urgent meeting on conflict-driven hunger during its March presidency of the UN Security Council.

The Problem

Conflict forces people to flee within and beyond their country’s borders, it disrupts agricultural production and livelihoods, and it severs families from their social support systems. When conflict continues unchecked, it fuels a cycle of ongoing violence including deliberate attacks on civilians and relief workers, prevents aid from reaching those most in need, and increases instability that then fuels future conflict. Right now, there are alarming levels of acute malnutrition, food insecurity, and possible famine taking place in many corners of the globe. For example:

  • In Yemen, a country that has been brought to its knees by more than six years of conflict, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than two million children under the age of five who are at risk of acute malnutrition and death.
  • Violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is causing rising acute food insecurity and hampering the humanitarian community’s ability to fully assess needs and respond with scaled up food and nutrition assistance.
  • In Syria, Afghanistan, northern Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict is causing rising levels of malnutrition in children.
  • Seventy-seven million people in 22 countries experienced hunger due to armed violence in 2019 – numbers expected to grow to historic levels in 2021.

Areas for Collaboration

There are a number of solutions and areas for potential collaboration that, with leadership from the UN Security Council, could make an impact, including:

  • Securing sustained funding for humanitarian organizations to help bridge funding gaps and maintain their continuity of operations.
  • Supporting the Secretary-General’s mandate under Resolution 2417 to urgently report to the Council when conflict-induced famine or risk of famine is taking place. The Secretary-General must have the needed tools to report in a timely and transparent manner.
  • Encouraging member states to speak out and take action when conflict-induced hunger is taking place. We cannot remain silent when people are facing starvation.
  • Driving accountability when international humanitarian law is violated by individuals, groups, or States. Humanitarians must have safe, rapid, and unhindered access to populations in need.
  • Strengthening the nexus between humanitarian, development, and peace assistance to provide life-saving aid while implementing sustainable solutions that can end the cycle of conflict, famine, and instability.

A Global Crisis at a Glance

Yemen: As a result of years of conflict in Yemen, the WHO estimates over two million children under the age of five and over one million pregnant and lactating women are at risk of starvation and projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in the course of 2021. An estimated 16.2 million people will likely face crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity in Yemen from January to June 2021, representing an increase of approximately 2.7 million people from the October-to-December 2020 period, according to the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC)’s projection for January-June 2021. The United States has provided more than $350 million in humanitarian assistance in FY 2021 alone.

Syria: According to the UN, ongoing hostilities and direct attacks have helped make Syria one of the most dangerous places for humanitarian workers world-wide, with an average of one humanitarian worker killed every 30 days in Northwest Syria alone. Nearly 60 percent of Syria’s population, an estimated 12.4 million people are experiencing food insecurity, representing the highest level ever recorded in the country. Of that total, at least 1.3 million people were classified as severely food-insecure, an increase of more than 120 percent compared to 2019, indicating that they are unable to survive without food assistance. Since 2012, the U.S. Government has provided more than $12 billion in humanitarian funding to help support the Syrian people.

Nigeria: Severe acute food insecurity is projected to increase across most of northern Nigeria from December 2020 to August 2021, as ongoing conflict, climatic shocks, and COVID-19 containment measures continue to limit income-earning opportunities and restrict access to food items and nutrition services. Approximately 13 million people across Nigeria will likely experience Crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity during the 2021 June-to-August lean season, an 80 percent increase compared to the 2020 lean season. With more than $212 million in FY 2020 funding, USAID provided life-saving food and nutrition assistance to more than 1.7 million people in Nigeria affected by acute food insecurity

Ethiopia’s Tigray Region: At least 4 million people, approximately two-thirds of the Tigray region’s population, will likely require emergency food assistance in 2021 due to conflict-related population displacement and disruptions to harvests, livelihoods, markets, and supply chains. USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team on March 1 and is working to rapidly scale up assistance. USAID’s partners are aiming to reach 1.5 million people in the Tigray region with emergency food assistance.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: An estimated 19.6 million people are projected to be acutely food insecure in the DRC through June 2021. To date in FY 2021, the United States provided more than $75 million to support emergency food and nutrition services in the DRC. This support also includes strengthening the coordination of humanitarian nutrition activities in the country.

Afghanistan: Ongoing conflict and frequent natural disasters continue to displace populations and generate humanitarian needs throughout Afghanistan. According to the UN, the number of people experiencing severe levels of acute food insecurity increased from 13.9 million in November 2019 to approximately 16.9 million people, representing 42 percent of Afghanistan’s population, in November 2020. With more than $103 million in FY 2020 food assistance funding to UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, and three NGO partners, the USG supports the delivery of life-saving emergency food assistance across Afghanistan.