interview with the Associated Press, said that if the world wants to eradicate world hunger, then
the international community needs to explore ways to end the fact that 19 countries are currently
engaged in “protracted conflict” plaguing nations from the continent of Africa to the Middle
East. The downside to these conflicts is that they drain approximately 80 percent of WFP funds,
as the U.N. global food agency must provide the necessary resources for civilians trapped in the
throes of war.
Moreover, Mr. Beasley asserted, that finding solutions to conflict would allow funding to be
diverted to necessary global infrastructure projects stimulating economic growth in many
developing countries. Further, reaching Sustainable Development Goal #2 is unattainable if
conflict persists. “Zero hunger by 2030? It’s a joke without ending conflicts,” Beasley contends.
The number of people globally facing extreme hunger rose last year from 777 million to 815
million. The increase is directly attributable to ongoing conflicts. Beasley stated that “It’s a
disgrace on humanity, the number of innocent victims of conflict, children, that are starving to
death because of nothing but man-made conflict.”
The U.N. food agency head was also interviewed by ’60 Minutes’ for a segment titled,
“Catastrophe.” The piece examined how the Yemeni civil war threatens 7 million people and has
brought them to the “brink of starvation.” Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen further escalates
the tensions in this region. The blockade was instituted following an attack by Shiite Houthi
rebels backed by Iran. The global pressure upon Saudi Arabia to confine the blockade to rebel-
held areas has done little to alleviate the plight of the Yemeni civilian population.
In addition, news from this conflict is scarce due to the Saudis ban on journalists entering the
area. The ’60 Minutes’ crew was able to capture the horrible images of emaciated children who
have become the silent victims in this civil war.
Mr. Beasley indicated that if the required financial resources are not received soon, the result
will surely be an outbreak of famine where he estimates that “125,000 little girls and boys will
die.” The Saudis do not want the world to view these horrifying images and the humanitarian
crisis mainly wrought by the Saudi-led coalition that has seen the deaths of some 3,000 civilians.
The use of food as a weapon of war is deplorable, but unfortunately it is an all too common tactic
utilized by parties to a conflict. The blocking of relief supplies is a violation of international
humanitarian law – the law of armed conflict. The legal basis for this can be found in Additional
Protocol I (API) to the 1949 Geneva Convention.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, when speaking about the crisis in Syria last year,
stated “The use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime.” The challenge is eventually
prosecuting the perpetrators for such crimes.
Further exacerbating an already dire situation in Yemen is the cholera epidemic. The lack of
proper sanitation and water treatment facilities has caused this health emergency. The greatest
obstacle facing aid workers is garnering access to those in need.
The mission of the WFP is to provide food assistance to vulnerable populations. Its largest
contributor, the United States, allows for the U.N. food agency to feed 90 million people in more
than 73 countries. The food insecurity-conflict nexus presents significant challenges to the WFP.
Estimates indicate that 2 billion people in 2016 were residing in states afflicted by conflict and
violence. Fragile states create national security concerns. Moreover, the number of internally
displaced persons (IDPs) has grown exponentially due to ongoing conflicts.
Conflict and food insecurity threatens entire generations of young people. It is incumbent upon
the international community to develop ways to locate the root causes of these conflicts for the
most innocent amongst us – our children.