The world cannot stand by watching Yemen’s human tragedy

Briefing to UN Permanent Representatives in New York on food security, migration

6 November 2018, New York - The international community is failing to end hunger, evidenced by the tragic crisis in Yemen, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) José Graziano da Silva told a high-level briefing on food insecurity to Member States at the United Nations in New York.

"We are watching before our eyes an unprecedented human tragedy," Graziano da Silva said in New York in reference to the ongoing conflict in Yemen which has caused up to 14 million people to be at risk of severe food insecurity, including children facing the worst extremes of hunger.

"Yemen is living proof of an apocalyptical equation: conflicts and food security go hand in hand, and when there is an overlap of climate change and conflict, famine is already on the horizon," he said.

The briefing by FAO, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development focused on the causes and implications of the recent rise in global hunger, and efforts needed to put the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger back on track. 

“We live in a world in which hunger and obesity are both on the rise. We need to take decisive action through a multilateral approach to overcome these challenges in food security and nutrition,” the President of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés said at the opening of the session.

The recently-published report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 was at the centre of the briefing, and shows that after years of progress, the number of people globally who suffer from hunger has been growing over the past three years, rising to nearly 821 million in 2017 and returning to levels from almost a decade ago. Conflict, as in the case of Yemen, as well as climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns are the main drivers behind the increase. 

At the same time, the Director-General told attendees, obesity rates are going up in all regions of the world, and more than one in eight adults in the world is obese. The problem is most significant in North America, but Africa and Asia are also experiencing upward trends.

Migration must work for all

The rise of migration was also in focus, with Graziano da Silva telling Permanent Representatives that hunger was one of the drivers behind the ‘migrant caravan' moving through Central America towards the United States.

"Those migrants including many indigenous people are abandoning their fields after repeated crop failures, attributed to prolonged drought and changing weather patterns," he said. 

The recently published The State of Food and Agriculture 2018 report was also presented during the briefing and focuses on migration and rural development.

International migration makes the most news headlines, but the report shows that internal migration is a significantly larger phenomenon: more than 1 billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 percent of moves involving a rural area.  The report also shows that migration between developing countries is slightly greater than movements from developing to developed countries, and in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.

"The objective must be to make migration a choice, not a necessity, and to maximize the positive impacts while minimizing the negative ones," Graziano da Silva said. "In many situations it makes sense to facilitate migration and allow prospective migrants to take advantage of the opportunities that migration offers. This can help promote economic, social and human development," he added.

The Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, in its capacity as Chair of the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition, co-sponsored the briefing, with the Permanent Mission of Mozambique and the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica.     

Photo: ©
FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva (centre) speaking at the briefing, with WFP Executive Director David Beasley (left).