In conflict- and famine-affected states, interventions can undermine innate community resiliencies that could offer some protective effect for families and individuals. It is well-understood that violent conflict is a major cause, or the primary cause, of each of the globe’s four most pressing food security crises — in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen — that could deteriorate into full-scale famine in 2017. The conflict dynamics are unique to each country, but all are characterized by lack of civilian protection, mass displacement, and disrupted provision of humanitarian assistance, which compound preexisting food security problems. Addressing these challenges is essential to prevent these four emergencies from developing into full-blown catastrophes.
Many countries prone to food insecurity have invested in building household and community resilience to the shocks that can cause famine. Roads and water infrastructure improvements, new agricultural techniques, and market diversification can mitigate the impact of drought, crop failure, and supply chain disruptions that lead to food insecurity. This type of resilience-building is most likely to succeed where there is a degree of functional governance. Even when those measures fail, or have not yet taken hold under a nascent government like Somalia’s, basic governance can still support the provision of humanitarian assistance when the food system fails. In open conflict, this is far more difficult if not impossible.