U.N. Allots $250M for Crises like Famine threat in Africa

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Conflict, drought, and economic woes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are reversing years of progress made to fight famine in Africa

Buea (Cameroon) February 20 – The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the body will spend $250 million from its emergency fund to tackle “forgotten crises’ around the world, including helping communities that are facing the risk of famine in Africa.

The diplomat who has been UN Secretary-General since 2017 was speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual African Union summit in Ethiopia. “I’m announcing the largest-ever allocation from our United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund,” Guterres said as quoted by Reuters.

Over 14 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are already on the verge of starvation—about half of them children, International Rescue Committee (IRC) said last year. Conflict, economic shocks and climate change have also been driving mass displacement in Africa’s Sahel for years. Between 2015 and 2022, the number of people in the region in need of emergency food assistance nearly quadrupled, from 7 to over 30 million. Record numbers of people are facing extreme hunger in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso alone.

“It’s heartbreaking that the lives of millions of children in East Africa are at risk due to a perfect storm of conflict, changing or unpredictable weather patterns, and the aftershocks of COVID-19,” said Edgar Sandoval Sr., president and CEO of World Vision U.S. “The long-term harm of malnutrition on children’s development hinders their ability to achieve their God-given potential.”

UN Security Council Resolution 2417 recognises the link between armed conflict and food insecurity. Inadequate food supply results from conflicts, but can also foment insecurity among communities, especially in areas of forced displacements and shared intercommunal resources. Nationally, the rise in food prices correlates directly with political dissatisfaction, protests and agitations about change in government and with the onset of political instability.

Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

The World Health Organization (WHO) had last year warned that the Greater Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst hunger crises of the last 70 years. An estimated 37 million people are facing acute hunger, with approximately seven million children under the age of five acutely malnourished in the region.

WHO said that Climate change, conflict, rising food prices and the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded one of the worst droughts in the region in recent decades. “There are now four seasons where the rain didn’t come as predicted and a fifth season is estimated to also fail. Places, where there is drought the problem, keeps worsening and worsening,” said WHO Incident Manager Sophie Maes.

“In other places like South Sudan, there have been three years of consecutive flooding with almost 40 per cent of the country being flooded. And we are looking at something that is going to get worse soon.”

The effects of drought are particularly severe in eastern and southern Ethiopia, eastern and northern Kenya, and southern and central Somalia.

Food insecurity in South Sudan has reached the most extreme levels since independence in 2011, with 8.3 million people comprising 75 per cent of the population facing severe food insecurity.


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