Dan Carden MP Shadow Minister for International Development speaks at Action Against Hunger's Response to Famine event at Westminster

Responding to the Hunger Crisis

Action Against Hunger calls for a renewed commitment to combating famine

By Action Against Hunger

Feb 23 2018

The 22nd February marked the one-year anniversary of the UN’s call to action on famine. With hunger and malnutrition on the rise, Action Against Hunger held an event in the UK Parliament to call for a renewed political commitment to responding to hunger crises, and preventing them.

Harriett Baldwin MP, Minister for International Development and the Foreign Office, opened the event with a speech stressing the growth in vulnerability to famine and food insecurity around the world. She commented on the success of aid workers in helping to avert the worst extremes of hunger crises in 2017. She also cautioned however that, “We cannot stand still. 2018 will place the greatest demand on the humanitarian system since 1945”.

"There is nothing inevitable or unavoidable about famine. Famine is a failure of politics." Harriet Baldwin, MP, Minister of State for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK.

Dan Carden MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, followed with an affirmation of the Labour Party’s commitment to humanitarian aid and a call for all donor governments to ensure that UN Emergency Appeals are met. He affirmed the need to tackle the underlying causes of vulnerability to hunger and conflict, in particular inequality and poverty. He pointed too to the need for increased investment in disaster risk reduction. 

Other speakers at the event include Action Against Hunger’s East Africa Regional Director, Hajir Maalim; Christina Bennett, Head of the ODI’s Humanitarian Policy Group; and Lucy Lamble, Global Development Executive Editor, The Guardian. 

In a discussion Chaired by Saleh Saeed, Chief Executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee, the panellists offered diverse perspectives on what the international community needs to do differently to better respond to the growing threat of hunger and malnutrition in 2018.  

The problem of understanding and acting on the relationship between conflict and hunger was raised by Christina Bennett, drawing on the Humanitarian Policy Group’s Breaking a Vicious Cycle report. She stressed the need to enforce international law on hunger as a weapon of war. 

The forces at play that are driving the current rise in hunger and food insecurity are diverse and vary by country. The response needed from the international community, from governments, and from local civil society are equally diverse and this was reflected in a conversation that ranged between localisation, technology, the growing role of BRICs countries, and food systems. 

Some lessons can be applied in all contexts though. As Hajir Maalim highlighted, the rapid and early response of humanitarian actors to emergencies is enabled by establishing multiple humanitarian coordination centres across a country. The ability to act fast by having people on the ground to respond to disease outbreaks saves thousands of lives. 

Lucy Lamble described the challenges that news outlets have in reporting on when things go right. A disaster prevented is less news-worthy than a disaster that happens. One way around this is with human stories about individuals recovering from disaster and rebuilding their communities to be resilient in the future. 

An overarching theme of the night is that the need has never been greater. The world faces even greater levels of food insecurity and famine risk in 2018 than it did in 2017. Humanitarians working locally and internationally must be ready to respond, but they do not operate in a vacuum. They are reliant on the support of the communities they work with and the people that fund them. As one speaker suggested, in the face of growing need and, in places, a weakening of support for humanitarian action there is a  greater need than ever to stand ‘united against inhumanity’. 

Famine: Better Prevention, Better Response
Action Against Hunger also produced a briefing for the event, in alliance with the Norwiegan Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children setting out seven key recommendations to the UK government on how to respond to and prevent hunger. Read our Famine: Better Prevention, Better Response Report.

Famine: Better Prevention, Better Response
Famine: Better Prevention, Better Response

Report on famine

Better prevention & better response