World Vision joins aid agencies to call on governments to fight hunger crisis

Aid organisations have called on governments to give a single day’s military spending to fight hunger. Only 26 hours of global military spending is enough to cover the $US5.5 billion ($AU7.1 billion) needed to help those most at risk.

One year since the UN warned of “famines of biblical proportions”, rich donors have funded just 5 per cent of the UN’s $US7.8 billion ($AU10.08 billion) food security appeal for 2021. More than 200 NGOs have published an open letter calling on all governments to urgently increase aid to stop more than 34 million people, from being pushed to the brink of starvation this year. The $US5.5 billion ($AU7.1 billion) additional funding recently called for by the UN WFP and FAO equates to less than 26 hours of the $US1.9 trillion ($AU2.46 trillion) that countries spend each year on defence.

Yet, as more and more people go to bed hungry, conflict is increasing. At the end of 2020, the UN estimated 270 million people were either at high risk of, or already facing, acute levels of hunger. Already 174 million people in 58 countries have reached that level and are at risk of dying from malnutrition or lack of food, and this figure is only likely to rise in coming months if nothing is done immediately. Globally, average food prices are now the highest in seven years.

Conflict is the biggest driver of global hunger, also exacerbated by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. From Yemen, to Afghanistan, South Sudan and Northern Nigeria, conflicts and violence are forcing millions to the brink of starvation. Many in conflict zones have shared horrifying stories of hunger. Fayda from Lahj governorate in Yemen says: “When humanitarian workers came to my hut, they thought I had food because smoke was coming from my kitchen. But I was not cooking food for my children – instead I could only give them hot water and herbs, after which they went to sleep hungry. I thought about suicide several times, but I did not do it because of my children.”

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Secretary General called for a global ceasefire to address the pandemic but too few leaders have sought to implement it. Global leaders must support durable and sustainable solutions to conflict, and open pathways for humanitarians to access those in conflict zones to save lives.

Amb. Ahmed Shehu, Regional Coordinator for the Civil Society Network of Lake Chad Basin said: “The situation here is really dire. Seventy per cent of people in this region are farmers but they can’t access their land because of violence, so they can’t produce food. These farmers have been providing food for thousands for years – now they have become beggars themselves. Food production is lost, so jobs are lost, so income is lost, so people cannot buy the food. Then, we as aid workers cannot safely even get to people to help them. Some of our members risked the journey to reach starving communities and were abducted – we don’t know where they are. This has a huge impact on those of us desperate to help.”

The open letter can be found here:

https://www.icvanetwork.org/SignOpenLetterFaminePrevention

● In the first quarter of 2021, donors have provided just 6.1 per cent of the total $US36 billion ($AU46.55 billion) requested in the UN humanitarian appeals for the year. In the food security sector, donors met only 5.3 per cent or $US415 million ($AU536.7 million) of the total $US7.8 billion ($AU10.08 billion) requested. (As of April 7, 2021)

● The military spending figures are based on 2019 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which estimated global military spending at $US1.9 trillion ($AU2.46 trillion)

● According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), world food prices stood at their highest level in seven years in February 2021

● The study by Development Initiatives of the impact of COVID-19 on aid levels, found substantial declines in aid commitments in 2020 for Canada, Germany, the UK and the US, and a small decline for EU institutions. No data are provided on France, Italy and Japan.

● The latest figures on global hunger levels are as of of March 2021 from FAO-WPF’s Hunger Hotspots report In December the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview for 2021 warned the number of acutely food insecure people could rise to 270 million by the end of 2020. FAO & WFP echoed this estimate in their call to action to avert famine in February 2021.

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