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As Hunger surges WFP appeals for Peace on World Food Day
by David Beasley
United Nations World Food Programme
Oct. 2017
The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme today made an impassioned plea for peace amid mounting evidence of the links between conflict, migration and rising hunger.
Concerns are growing that progress in defeating global hunger is being reversed as record numbers of people flee their homes to escape fighting.
“Someday in the future, World Food Day will be a celebration of a peaceful and well-fed world. Sadly, that day seems very far off right now. We have far too much violence and conflict, and that is why we have more people who are hungry and in need of assistance,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
After steadily declining for over a decade, hunger is on the rise again and of the 815 million hungry people on the planet, 489 million live in countries affected by conflict, the annual UN report on food security and nutrition revealed last month.
“I call on the people in power, the people with guns, to stop the fighting now,” said Beasley, who has met many people fleeing conflict and violence in Yemen, South Sudan and Bangladesh over the past few months.
“I saw their wounds with my own eyes and I heard their stories with my own ears. They were frightened, hungry and malnourished after enduring a nightmare that most people cannot even imagine. If we are truly going to end hunger, we must stop this kind of inhumanity.”
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report found that while most countries had achieved significant gains in reducing hunger in the last 25 years, progress in the majority of countries affected by conflict had stagnated or deteriorated. Conflicts can devastate the economy, disrupt agriculture and lead to forced population movements.
A WFP study published earlier this year established a link between hunger and migration. It found that countries with the highest level of hunger, coupled with armed conflict, have the highest outward migration. For each additional year of conflict and bloodshed, an extra 40 people out of 10,000 will flee their country. It showed that people often move several times within their own country before crossing borders, leaving behind their land, jobs and livelihoods.
In war-torn countries, where agriculture and trade is disrupted and the economy collapses, the cost of a simple, nutritious plate of food can be more than a day’s wages. WFP has developed an index where we have worked out the cost of a basic plate of food to people in 33 developing countries as a share of their average daily income.
In Counting the Beans: The True Cost of a Plate of Food around the World, we show that in South Sudan, for example, the cost could be the equivalent of a New Yorker having to pay US$321 for a modest lunch – say a plate of bean stew -- cooked at home. At the height of the siege of the Syrian town of Deir Ezzor, the same meal worked out at nearly US$200.

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Driven to extremes: how poverty fuels extremism, and how to help Africa’s youth
by Siddharth Chatterjee
U.N. Development Programme, agencies
October 2017
Increasing inequality hinders economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increases political and social tensions and drives instability and conflict.
Poverty is a blight, and one that disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa. It is a vast and complex issue whose tentacles reach into many areas, including climate change, sustainable development and–crucially–global security. The link between poverty and violent extremism is compelling, and means that if we want to address extremism, we must fight inequality too.
This year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 17 takes as its theme A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies. This is timely, coming as it does just a few weeks after the release of a landmark survey into the forces driving young Africans towards violent extremism.
Published by the U.N. Development Programme, "Journey to Extremism in Africa: drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment" presents compelling evidence that violent extremism can never be beaten if feelings of deprivation and marginalization, especially among the young, are not addressed.
Almost 500 former– or in occasional cases current – voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Al Shabaab, Boko Haram or Ansar Dine were interviewed for the survey. Most cited lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing as reasons for joining the groups, with very few mentioning religious ideology.
In Kenya as in many other countries, the regions acknowledged to be flashpoints for radicalisation and violent extremism are synonymous with extreme poverty, high illiteracy levels and under-investment in basic services. The majority of those living in these regions have for years believed themselves to be excluded from the national development agenda.
The findings drive home the reality that a focus on security-led responses to extremism cannot provide lasting solutions, but rather that confronting the challenges of radicalism and terrorist threats, particularly in Africa, calls for action on a range of social, cultural, economic and political fronts.
The report estimates that extremism caused 33,000 deaths in Africa between 2011 and 2016, with related displacement and economic devastation causing some of the worst humanitarian disasters on the continent.
Numerous studies show that increasing inequality hinders economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increases political and social tensions and drives instability and conflict.
Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator at an event in New York about "SDGs in Action: Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Inclusive Prosperity in a Changing World", emphasized, “the critical importance of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first”.A further challenge to Africa’s progress is highlighted in the latest UNDP Africa Human Development Report, which shows that gender inequalities continue to hobble the continent’s structural, economic and social transformation.
When women attain higher measures of economic and social wellbeing, benefits accrue to all of society. Yet too many women and girls, simply because of their gender, cannot fulfil their potential due to lack of education, early marriage, sexual and physical violence, inadequate family planning services, and high incidences of maternal mortality.
According to the UNDP report, gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa 95 billion dollars a year, equivalent to about six percent of the region’s GDP.
The challenge of creating economic opportunities for Africa’s youth is monumental. Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60 percent will be joining the army of the unemployed, adding to existing social and economic pressures.
Government can help by incentivising the informal sector that employs the overwhelming majority of Kenyans would be a step in the right direction. Reforming an education system that ill-prepares the young for entrepreneurship and business would be another.
With only 13 years to achieve the SDGs, the search for solutions must make use of the evidence on the causes, consequences and trajectories of violent extremism. If Africa is to curtail the spread of violent extremism and achieve sustainable development, there must be determined focus on the health, education and employment of disadvantaged youth.
Only by tackling entrenched inequalities both economic and gender-based can Africa achieve sustainable prosperity, and end the scourge of poverty.
* Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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