Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Diane Mulligan CBM, United Kingdom

Disability, hunger, food and nutrition security – a contribution by CBM


There are an estimated one billion persons with disabilities worldwide[1].  Persons with disabilities are particularly at risk to the effects of climate change, such as food security.  In order to be effective, any framework or action plan in relation to the post-2015 MDGs must incorporate disability-inclusive development principles. 


Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty.   The impacts of climate change (extreme weather, sea level changes and agriculture productivity changes, leading to food insecurity) will affect the world’s poorest people[2]. They are some of the most vulnerable to environmental degradation and changes. It is estimated there will be at least 200 million people displaced by climatic events by 2050, of whom at least 30 million are likely to be persons with disabilities (15% of population). There are many others who are left behind to struggle for a livelihood in degraded environments[3].


The health status of millions of people, including persons with disabilities and the prevalence of disability are projected to be affected by climate change through increases in malnutrition[4].   Persons with disabilities and their families living in poverty are facing reduced access to: clean water; fertile soils and suitable growing conditions for cropping and livestock; to fuel-wood and other energy sources; to wild foods, medicinal plants and other natural products related to their livelihoods[5]. Persons with disabilities and their families face real barriers in accessing food[6]. The gender dimension is being addressed by programmes increasingly working with women in:   improving food security; social protection through livelihood activities; sustainable, small scale, climate-smart food production; and improved access to markets[7]. These programmes also need to address disability exclusion by ensuring active participation of persons with disabilities and their families.  Food insecurity and malnutrition can lead to long term and/or permanent impairments.  There are strong links between childhood malnutrition and acquiring impairments. Malnutrition is estimated to cause about 20 per cent of impairments[8].


Conflict is a leading cause of physical and psychological disability. Conflict attributable to climate change will increase[9] , because food and water resources will become increasingly scarce or hard to access.  The “responsibilities of States to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedom for all” is now formally recognized in final outcome document of Rio 2012[10].  This can be achieved by including people with disabilities and adopting a rights-based approach.  The right to food security, water rights and sustainable agriculture would assist in improving food quality; ensuring appropriate utilization of food; and involving crisis prevention, preparedness and management.  Mechanisms for the assessment and monitoring of malnutrition and food crisis need to be established as a minimum requirement in food security and humanitarian programmes.


In addition, indicators related to the capacities of the affected population to participate in food chains, processing and production need to include groups particularly at risk, such as persons with disabilities.


In poor regions of the world population growth rates continue to place pressures on the poorest people for food and other resources. In sub-Saharan Africa population growth rate was 2.54% in 2010, (global rate 1.16%).


Higher food prices due to climate change combined with urbanisation trends will lead to more households being net food consumers; this too will affect (urban) poor people more[11].   CBM works in partnership to ensure persons with disabilities are included in food security emergency response programmes in the ‘Horn of Africa’ and Sahel Region of West Africa,  where over 20 million people have been in need of assistance from the worst droughts experienced over the last 60+ years.


For more information contact: Diane Mulligan




[1] World Health Organization and World Bank (2011) World Report on Disability.  Geneva: WHO Press.


[2] Eighty per cent of the 300 million people who live within 5 meters of sea level are in developing countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Debate on Sea-Level Rise: Critical Stakes for Poor Countries: February 2, 2007. (accessed 13 February 2012).


[3]  International Organisation for Migration. Migration, climate change and environmental degradation: a complex nexus.


[4] IPPC (2007).


[5] European Commission (2007) Environmental Integration Handbook for EC Development Cooperation.


[6]  World Health Organization and World Bank (2011) World Report on Disability.  Geneva: WHO Press, page 10. ‘Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship – including food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to health care’.


[7] Food and Nutrition – ‘Security for All through Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems’; Note from the United Nations System High Level Task Force on Global Food Security, March 2012,


[8] Department for International Development (DFID) (2000) Disability, Poverty and Development, DFID, UK.


[9] IPCC (2007) Fourth Assessment Report.  Working Group II. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.


[11] Skoufias, E., Rabassa, M. & Olivieri, O. (2011) The Poverty Impacts of Climate Change: A Review of the Evidence, Policy Research Working Paper 5622, The World Bank.