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Why Global Hunger Is a National Security Concern

Nearly a decade ago, high food prices sparked dozens of riots across the world, toppling governments and prompting world leaders to increase investments in foreign aid programs that address hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. Although food prices are more stable today, the combination of ongoing conflicts, climate volatility, and weak governance has created what the United Nations has called “the world’s humanitarian largest crisis since 1945.”

Famine in four countries

A quadruple threat of famine looms in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen with more than 20 million people facing starvation this year. It is no coincidence that the common denominator among these countries is conflict. In addition, Africa has faced one of its worst droughts in decades, pushing many poor, rural families into greater food insecurity. 

It is a chaotic, complicated time in our history. Families are fleeing war, seeking food and stability. The United States has traditionally been a leader in helping the world’s poorest, achieving great results with less than 1 percent of our overall budget for all foreign assistance.

Keeping us safe

Helping those less fortunate is more than just a core American value. It also helps keep us safe. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis understands. He has made it clear that if we don’t have strong programs to improve lives in developing countries, he “needs to buy more ammunition.”

A hungry population can become unstable. Terrorist groups can use food to attract new recruits. Food insecurity can spark riots against governments that are unable (or unwilling) to provide basic services. Americans need a better understanding of global hunger and its ripple effects. Food security worldwide supports political stability and makes us safer at home.

Kimberly Flowers, Director, Global Food Security Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies, [email protected]

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