• English
  • 日本語
  • France
  • Deutschland
  • Italy
  • España
  • Slovenia

UN issues $100m emergency funding and calls for global effort to avert famine

Guest content
19 November 2020

The UN has earmarked $100m (£75m) in emergency funding for seven countries deemed at risk of famine, warning that without immediate action the world could see “huge numbers of children dying on TV screens”.

The climate crisis, Covid-19, conflict and economic decline have created an “acute and grave crisis” in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, where millions of people are facing emergency levels of food insecurity, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Guardian.

Ethiopia, where drought is exacerbating a growing conflict, is to receive $20m of the money.

“This is absolutely not enough money to deal with the situation at hand, but what we’re trying to do is send a signal to the world that if we’re not careful, in a year from now we will ask ourselves why we didn’t prevent a bunch of famines across the globe,” said Lowcock.

“We absolutely hope that the major humanitarian financiers – the US, Germany, European commission and the UK – will step up. Overall, for this year in humanitarian action we need $20bn. By July, we only had $3bn. Covid-19 has pushed the number of people needing humanitarian assistance to 250 million people. The problem is growing faster than the money is growing, and that’s why we have this extreme situation now.”

The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will distribute the money through a cash and voucher programme aimed at the most vulnerable, particularly women and girls, and people with disabilities, the UN said.

Afghanistan, where 3.3 million people are in need of food, will receive $15m. Burkina Faso will receive $6m; DRC, where nearly 22 million people will require food assistance by the end of 2020, will receive $7m. North-east Nigeria will receive $15m and South Sudan $7m. Yemen, where millions of people are struggling after five years of conflict, will receive $30m.

The UN announcement comes on the heels of a Care report published on Wednesday warning that the number of people experiencing serious food insecurity could nearly double before the end of 2020 due to the repercussions of Covid-19.

That report said that, for the first time, four countries were simultaneously bordering on famine: DRC, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

Donors have provided just 39% of the funding needed for 2020, Care said, compared with 63% in 2019.

Report author Sarah Fuhrman said the research makes clear how urgently the world needs to step up to take action now.

“This is not a problem that one country can solve. It requires concerted effort from every donor in every country to refocus and reconsider what their priorities are for their money and how we want to deal with a crisis that we can see coming,” she said.

“Do we want to look back on 2020 as the time when we let the pandemic and its effects get to a point where people were at huge risk of famine or do we look back and say, ‘We pulled together to literally save people’s lives’?”

Original source: The Guardian

Op-ed: We’ve averted famine in the past – we must do it again

On the heels of an announcement by UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock to allocate US$100 million to help people feed themselves in countries most at risk from the growing hunger epidemic caused by conflict, economic decline, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, the following op-ed by Mr. Lowcock and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, was published online by The Times of London:

Humankind’s greatest success was to consign famine to history.

That we now face it again is heart-wrenching and obscene when we produce enough food to nourish every person on the planet.

This is the moment to ask ourselves if we’re prepared to let that happen on our watch.

Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen are at the brink.

The world has been understandably preoccupied with COVID-19 but this must not distract us from the bigger killer.

In fragile and conflict-hit countries, it’s not the virus itself that will do most harm. It’s the missed vaccination, the missed education, the missed daily wage that means a family can’t eat.

Severe food insecurity – which means not knowing where your next meal will come from – was around before COVID-19.

But the impacts of the pandemic and associated lockdowns – falling incomes, rising food prices – were a match on tinder. Leave this fire to take hold and millions of children will die.

Even short-term famine has a devastating long-term impact. What it does to a child is unspeakable.

Do nothing and it will be the catalyst for the grand reversal – the avoidable unravelling of decades of progress.

History proves this can be avoided. In 2017 we did it in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. We can do it again.

The UN’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan requires $10 billion. A drop in the ocean compared to the $12 trillion stimulus packages of wealthy nations or the $8 trillion collective net worth of the world’s 2,000 billionaires.

We’ve just allocated $100 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund to help people feed themselves in the most at-risk countries. WFP feeds around 100 million people a year. We need contributions from everyone who’s in a position to give. Not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Take Yemen as an example. Around 20 million people are already in crisis due to war, a collapsed economy, crippling food prices and destroyed public infrastructure. A further 3 million may now face severe hunger due to the virus. The struggles we face to secure humanitarian access to Yemeni civilians is harming donors’ willingness to fund operations, which hampers our ability to help people.

Countries in the region and beyond should collaborate to finance the Yemen relief effort, stabilize the shattered economy, support longer-term development and bring pressure to bear on the warring parties to silence the guns and make peace.

When the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to WFP they said they wanted to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from hunger or face the threat of it.

We couldn’t agree more. When more than a quarter of a billion people teeter on a cliff edge, it’s no time to look away, much less walk away.

By the time a famine is declared, it’s too late, because people have already started dying. Famines are a stain on humanity. Now is the time to act.

Mark Lowcock is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. David Beasley is the Executive Director of the World Food Programme. 

Original source of op-ed: OCHA

Image credit: Maryam Ibrahim, OCHA