McCaul and McRaven: National Security Dimensions of Global Food Insecurity
October 25, 2018
As we recognized World Food Day recently, we faced the alarming fact that one in every nine people throughout the world is hungry right now. That is 821 million people. In 2017 the number of hungry people increased for the third year in a row. In four countries –Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – 20 million people are at risk of famine. These numbers are disturbing, and the U.S. must respond, or else face a much larger crisis in the future.
Global hunger is a major national security concern. A generation of hundreds of millions of malnourished, and physically and cognitively, stunted adults contributes to instability and fragility.
With a population bulge already under way in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, malnutrition and food insecurity could be a primary driver for countries and regions moving toward greater poverty and instability. This poses a direct threat to the national security of the U.S. Therefore, we must adopt a comprehensive strategy to address global food insecurity at its root causes. This is why the two of us recently came together to speak at the University of Texas on the national security implications of global food insecurity.
Globally, malnutrition is responsible for nearly 50 percent of deaths of children under the age of five – more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. n 2017 alone, 151 million children under the age of five had stunted growth. This increases mortality risk and leads to delayed cognitive development, poor health, and a loss of economic productivity.
Over the last several years, the U.S. government has increasingly focused on food security by including it as a foreign policy and national security priority. In 2015, the National Intelligence Council released a Global Food Security Assessment, which predicted that a decline in food security would catalyze political instability, fragility, and conflict over the next decade. The 2017 National Security Strategy from the White House places special emphasis on combating global food insecurity. Moreover, at the 2017 G20 summit in Germany in 2017, President Trump publicly committed to greater U.S. leadership on global food security by announcing an additional $639 million of U.S. foreign assistance to the millions suffering from food insecurity and crisis in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. USAID’s Feed the Future initiative freed roughly 5.2 million households from hunger and 3.2 million children from the destructive effects of stunting.
In Congress members of both parties have been working to improve policy and increase resources for programs combating global hunger and malnutrition. Most recently, Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and I (McCaul) led an effort to increase funding for USAID global nutrition programming, which resulted in a $20 million increase for life-saving nutrition programs. Congress recently passed, and the president signed, the Global Food Security Act, which provides $1 billion per year to USAID for long-term agriculture development programs, including research partnerships with U.S. universities.
Texans should be proud of their role in fighting hunger. Universities are leading in the efforts, working with Feed the Future’s innovation labs in various capacities at Texas State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas school systems. The role of private philanthropies like the Eleanor Crook Foundation, which is associated with H-E-B, are also vital. The foundation has marshaled new, private sector resources to test and develop enhanced nutrition interventions, including the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in Africa.
The United States has the opportunity to be a leader in funding programs, enacting policies, and building on these multi-stakeholder partnerships to end hunger. Our leadership will not only save lives and ensure economic prosperity, it will decrease conflict and protect Americans both here and abroad.
McRaven is a retired Navy four-star admiral, who served as commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011-2014. He was chancellor of the University of Texas system from 2015-2018. Congressman McCaul represents the 10th District of Texas.
The op-ed originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, here.