GENEVA – Scaled-up investments in local food systems are critical to ensure sustainable food security and nutrition for forcibly displaced people and host communities, three UN agencies say, ahead of World Food Day on 16 October.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the World Food Programme (WFP), warn that the most vulnerable, especially refugees, are hardest hit by food insecurity, which continues to be driven globally by conflict, displacement, economic shocks, climate crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Conflict and climate stresses are destroying lives, crops and livelihoods, and undermining people’s ability to feed themselves,” says Annalisa Conte, WFP Director of Geneva Global Office. “Tragically, the climate crisis is set to be a catalyst for further conflict over competition for resources. What we see now is only the beginning.”
More than 11 million refugees are currently receiving humanitarian assistance to meet their food and nutrition needs. However, amid global funding shortfalls, assistance is not enough in many places, fuelling malnutrition and protection risks.
“Food security and nutrition in forcibly displaced populations, particularly refugees, is of urgent concern,” says Sajjad Malik, UNHCR’s Director of the Division of Resilience and Solutions. “We need to collectively ensure humanitarian needs are met while supporting local government to build inclusive, healthy food systems.”
At a panel discussion organised to celebrate World Food Day, the three agencies highlighted how the inclusion of forcibly displaced people into local food systems can contribute to greater food security and communities’ socio-economic prosperity.
“In contexts where the impacts of conflict and forced displacement are strongly felt, it’s incredibly important that efforts to strengthen local food systems are inclusive of the most vulnerable, including refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees,” says H.E. Felix Bauman, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.
“The United States remains committed to strengthening the capacity and resilience of all participants in food and agricultural systems and supply chains, particularly addressing vulnerable and underserved communities,” says Ben Moeling, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i, U.S. Mission to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
The event spotlighted ongoing efforts undertaken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, South Sudan and Uganda. Speaking via video from a refugee camp in western South Sudan, Tubi Anibati Felicitee, a refugee from DRC highlighted how she is growing food crops for consumption and sale as part of a joint initiative that is implemented by WFP, FAO, UNHCR, a private sector company, NGOs and the Government of South Sudan. As part of these collaborative efforts, refugees such as Felicitee, receive support to increase production, reduce food waste, and access viable markets.
“Resilient, efficient and sustainable food systems are only truly possible in forced displacement settings, when populations, in particular women, girls and youth are actively engaged,” says FAO Director of the Office for Emergencies and Resilience, Rein Paulsen. “When we create inclusive food systems, together, we can open the door for durable solutions, where everybody wins. We need collective action now to scale up these efforts.”
As part of this year’s World Food Day celebrations, the UN is supporting the distribution of 300 lunch boxes to vulnerable people in Geneva, including refugees. The lunch boxes are prepared by CuisineLab, a social enterprise run by refugee chefs in the city, and distributed by Mater Fondazione.
In addition, FAO is organizing a series of activities on 15 and 16 October in Geneva, including a World Food Day exhibition in Geneva’s Cornavin train station, which is organized in partnership with the Federal Office for Agriculture of Switzerland (FOAG), Partage Foundation, Geneva’s food bank and Ville de Genève. The symbol of Geneva, the Jet d’Eau, at lake Léman will be illuminated in blue on the evening of Saturday, 16 October to mark the day.
World Food Day marks the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) which was first established on the 16th of October 1945 in Quebec, Canada. The day has been celebrated by millions of people in almost every single country around the world since its inception in 1979.