To ramp up support, the United Nations convened a high-level event on Monday calling for international action before it’s too late.
In Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen, nearly half a million people experience famine-like conditions (IPC stage 5, according to the official classification). In recent months, vulnerable populations in Burkina Faso and Nigeria have also been subjected to the same conditions.
In addition, 41 million people worldwide are facing a food insecurity emergency (IPC 4), just one slipping away from the brink of famine, representing a 50 percent increase in just two years.
Millions more people are experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity (IPC 3) and are at real risk of rapid deterioration.
A poisonous mix
Opening the event, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs said that “when famine finally opens the door, it will go viral in a way that other threats may not.”
For deputy chief Martin Griffiths, the situation is the result of “a toxic mix of economic decline, climate change, COVID-19 and of course, most importantly, conflict fueling this horrific scourge, which has left women and girls, as always, particularly vulnerable. ”
“Women tell us about the desperate measures they have to take to find food to feed their families, including bartering sex for food, early marriages and child marriages, as I learned when I was in Syria recently,” recalls he himself.
Mr Griffiths thanked the donors and said that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been able to step up humanitarian operations in high-risk countries such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Yemen, where the UN agency currently reaches 10 million people per month.
However, Mr Griffiths warned that it is time to redouble the efforts and show that the world can take on this challenge collectively
“There is time, not much, and it has to happen,” he said.
The Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Qu Dongyu, also spoke at the event. For him, “food and sustenance should be given in tandem.”
“Supporting agri-food systems and providing long-term relief paves the way for recovery beyond survival and enhances resilience. I thank the members for their support. There is no time to lose,” he said.
World Food Program (WFP) executive director David Beasley stressed the need to get the message out and said world leaders “will respond” when “they know what the reality is”.
According to Mr. Beasley, there is $400 trillion in wealth in the world today and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires had an average increase in net worth of $5.2 billion per day.
‘It is a shame’
“And the fact that we’re sitting here begging for $6.6 billion to save 41 million people, and to prevent nations from destabilizing, and to prevent mass migration…I don’t know what I’m missing in the world. It’s a shame we’re having this conversation,” he concluded.
In March, the UN Secretary-General called for a swift, coordinated response in the Security Council.
At the time, António Guterres also established a high-level famine prevention task force to raise awareness and mobilize support for the most affected countries.