Addressing food security in protracted crises

Published: 18 October 2012

Food Security in Protracted Crises (compiled text of three interventions made by IFRC)
Speaker: Mr Mohammed Mukhier, Head of the Community Preparedness & Risk Reduction Department, IFRC Secretariat
Venue: Committee on World Food Security, 39 session, 15-20 October 2012, Rome

'The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) acknowledges and supports the Committee on Food Security’s (CFS) efforts to address food security in protracted crisis.

The IFRC is recognised as an important contributor to global food security as its structure and size enables it to bridge the gap between providing emergency food assistance during crisis and building resilience over the medium to long-term through capacity building of National Societies and community volunteers as well as through community-based livelihood activities. The global reach of the IFRC, present in 189 countries of the world and embedded within local communities through its local branch network allows it to have unique access to communities in need, which many other international humanitarian organisations do not have.

The IFRC has developed expertise in the area of food security over decades – its tools and approaches towards emergency food distribution, nutritional strengthening and livelihood development emerged from the major food emergencies in the Horn of Africa in the 1980’s and have since been developed, adapted and used in other food crisis for example, in the regions of Southern Africa, the Sahel and parts of South Asia. These tools and approaches include the establishment of simple but effective community based early warning systems, often called the ‘last mile’ of early warning, which links people in remote and high risk areas to scientific information and weather related predictions. The IFRC has solid experience in this field of community based early warning and is ready to cooperate with the CFS and its members to further develop  CBEWS, within the Global Framework for Food and Nutrition Security, as well as the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).

Secondly, IFRC would like to stress an often under-estimated but very important vehicle for achieving food security – that of targeted public awareness campaigns. Information when  transmitted in appropriate and culturally sensitive ways enables people to make informed choices about their lives and their health. The IFRC has for many years been using its networks of branches and volunteers to design community level messages about food security and public health and is eager to collaborate more extensively with governmental extension services, UN agencies and partners of the Global Framework for Food and Nutrition Security to increase public awareness campaigning on food security.

In line with many of the members and participants of the CFS, the IFRC believes that in order to achieve universal food security, strengthening community resilience needs to be emphasised and that such efforts should be focused on the most chronically affected areas and on the most vulnerable groups. The IFRC has evidence, from decades of investment in livelihood and micro-level food security programmes in protracted crises,  that resilience is the best way of connecting humanitarian and development programmes and helps to enable the most vulnerable people to address their own needs over the long-term.  In its food insecurity interventions, the IFRC and its member National Societies, follow a “twin track approach”, which means saving lives, as well as strengthening livelihoods. This approach needs to be complemented by effective public safety nets and social protection measures, which help carry people through their times of greatest need. The IFRC believes that social protection is the responsibility of government but in areas where local institutions are weak, it is also important to invest in and build capacity in those government structures.

The IFRC has carried out a series of cost-benefit analysis studies which show that if community based resilience programmes are designed properly, over time, they can certainly save more money, in terms of lives, livelihoods and property than a humanitarian response alone could.

For example, in 2012 in Kenya, in response to a drought in Tana North district, the Kenya Red Cross assisted communities over a period of nine months to recover from the drought and to strengthen their resilience to future climatic shocks by supporting the diversification of their agricultural production and seasonal income options, improving their access to clean water and sanitation facilities and providing training as well as basic farming inputs. The result was a higher production of fruit and vegetables, increased income through sales on the local markets, job creation and improved nutritional status of children. Such changes are likely to be sustainable and while this is one example of a resilience building food security project, there are many more.

Resilience cannot be built over night and what is required is more flexible and predictable resource allocation from donors. Initiatives such as the European Union's 'SHARE' initiative (for the Horn of Africa region) and 'AGIR' (for the Sahel region) can be seen as good examples for helping organisations like the IFRC and its partner National societies to address the root causes of food insecurity in protracted contexts.

Thank you Mr Chair'



The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies . As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright