To Fight Hunger In Africa, The African Union Heads of State Summit Must Prioritize Conflict Resolution

Climate shocks in Ethiopia, like the recent drought, make it hard for families to find clean water photo by Lys Arango Action Against Hunger, Ethiopia
Climate shocks in Ethiopia, like the recent drought, make it hard for families to find clean water photo by Lys Arango Action Against Hunger, Ethiopia

By Albert Siminyu

Nearly 60 years ago, our founding fathers, led by Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Milton Obote, and other independence African leaders, met in Addis Ababa for the very first Organization of African Unity (predecessor of the African Union) Heads of State Summit.

The May 1963 declarations from the summit envisioned a better future for the African continent, free from poverty, disease, hunger, and malnutrition. Over the years, these declarations were never prioritized. Slowly, the promises evolved into aspirations, transformed into dreams, and are now almost forgotten as the quality of life for most Africans has stagnated despite self-governance.

As the new generation of African leaders convene in Addis Ababa for the 37th AU Heads of State Summit this month, they need to rekindle conversations on ending poverty, hunger, and malnutrition as envisioned by the independence generation. The AU Heads of State Summit is the highest decision-making body for African countries and determines the continent’s priorities and policies.

Currently, more than 149 million people in Africa are facing food insecurity. To put this into perspective, this is the combined populations of Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi. This is shocking. Just like natural disasters, the fight against hunger should be declared an emergency throughout the continent.

Several factors are responsible for the rising food insecurity in Africa, including climate change, poor government policies, and conflicts. Global conflicts, including the war in Ukraine, the Rea Sea crisis, and the conflict in Gaza, have directly impacted food security as global food prices have increased and humanitarian aid is diverted to Ukraine and Gaza.

A recent report by Action Against Hunger, the global leader in the fight to end hunger, revealed that conflict is the primary cause of hunger not only in Africa, but around the world. The report, which details how conflict drives hunger, reveals that there has been an 80 percent rise in the number of people facing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected areas.

An estimated 149 million Africans face acute food insecurity, and 82% of those impacted live in conflict-affected countries, Women typically bear the brunt. Conflict disrupts agriculture, destroys key infrastructure, and prevents people from accessing markets, schools, and hospitals. It forces people to flee their homes, leaving their lives and livelihoods behind. Humanitarian workers are unable to deliver aid in areas with increasing violence.

At a time where conflict is rampant and hunger is rising, African leaders need to do all they can to resolve the numerous conflicts raging throughout the continent, from the insurgency in Somalia, Sudan’s civil war to internal strife in Ethiopia, to mention a few. As Kofi Annan stated, “Africa must take greater responsibility for its problems and solutions.”

In 2018, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2417, which recognized the link between conflict and hunger and declared that denial of access to food during a conflict may constitute a war crime.

Humanitarian organizations like Action Against Hunger have stepped up and provided food and humanitarian assistance in many conflict-affected areas. However, this is not sustainable, due to reduced donor funding and security concerns as humanitarian workers are frequent targets of violence, kidnappings, harassment, and killings.

If African leaders can resolve or significantly reduce the number of conflicts, millions of African citizens will benefit. Quality of life will improve vastly, and hunger and malnutrition will be reduced significantly.

I am optimistic that African leaders will rise to the occasion at this Summit and bring Patrice Lumumba’s words to life. “Africa will write its own history, and in both north and south, it will be a history of glory and dignity.”

Albert Siminyu

Albert Siminyu is the Regional Director of Action Against Hunger Horn and Eastern Africa Region

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