Food security in crisis

In times of humanitarian crises, food is one of the first resources to be affected. CARE International works to provide life-saving nutrition and care for people facing food insecurity in various parts of the world.

The importance of food security in crises 

Hunger and malnutrition are often caused by natural disasters and conflict. Drought can destroy crops, causing food prices to skyrocket, or violent conflict may force people to flee their homes, farms and livelihoods.  

UNOCHA estimates that up to 811 people in the world are malnourished. Acute hunger is increasing not only in scale but also in severity. According to WFP, 41 million people worldwide are now at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions unless they receive immediate life and livelihood-saving assistance. 

In this context, CARE International works to provide life saving food, nutrition, and medical care for malnourished people. We build the ability of communities to mitigate and cope with future emergencies. This includes promoting environmental sustainability and empowering people economically so that they are better prepared for difficult times. 

Humanitarian crises often cause food shortages in households, a weak maternal and childcare environment, and poor public health services. Combined, these factors can cause inadequate food intake and disease for individuals, ultimately resulting in malnutrition and death. 

In the event of humanitarian crises, the following will be affected:  

  • Food availability: Quantities and varieties of food available in the area may have been affected and not be enough. Food stocks, production, supply systems and markets may not be adequate or functioning optimally. 
  • Food access: A household’s own production, income, purchasing power, transfer from other sources and livelihood assets may have been disrupted or eroded. Households may not be able to access enough food without losing productive assets, which will have long-term effects on their livelihoods. 
  • Food utilization: People may have access to food but may not be able to utilize it efficiently and effectively due to several factors (for example, by not having fuel or containers to cook). People’s nutritional status may also be affected, as emergencies may change a person’s food consumption and/or public health conditions and care practices. 
A woman spoons beans and rice onto plates while a long line of people wait outside.

María Carmen Carcelén Carabalí, better known as Mama Carmela or Mama Candela, has provided food, shelter and other necessities for thousands of Venezuelans who have passed through Ibarra in northern region of Ecuador in the past few years.

What is CARE International doing to improve food security during crisis?  

CARE International and our partners focus on improving access to food and livelihood assistance for the most vulnerable people of all genders, prioritizing immediate life-saving and early recovery activities. We focus on food assistance, inclusive of the use of gender-sensitive cash and voucher assistance where appropriate, to prevent loss of life.  

Major activities include agricultural (seeds and tools), and economic (business, savings through VSLAs, wage labor, and life-based skills for employment support) activities that consider the unique needs and risks of people of all genders. Livelihood recovery activities will also include strengthening markets.  

CARE International’s largest humanitarian response program in Yemen includes addressing multiple threats including conflict, cholera, drought, and floods. Here, we work with our partners to provide food and cash support.  

Cash transfers to families in the European Union-funded Addressing Food Crisis in Yemen project ensured people were 5.6 times more likely to have enough food at the end of the project. When cash transfers ended after 3 months, families were still 3 times more likely to have enough food compared to before. A staggering 70% of women said that they are now playing a greater role in making or influencing financial decisions, including expenditures related to family needs.