UN Releases $100M in Bid to Prevent Famine in 7 Countries

17 Nov

UN Releases $100M in Bid to Prevent Famine in 7 Countries

The United Nations released $100 million from an emergency fund Tuesday in a bid to avert famine in seven at-risk countries.  “Famine can be prevented, but we have to act in time to make a difference,” U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement announcing the disbursement.  Before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, bringing socio-economic shocks with it, there were already 135 million people facing serious food insecurity in 55 countries, according to U.N. data.   Those numbers have grown this year, and the U.N. is raising the alarm on the situations in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. These six countries will share $80 million of the emergency funding, with $20 million set aside for Ethiopia.  “No one should view a slide into famine as an inevitable side effect of this pandemic,” Lowcock said. “If it happens it is because the world has allowed it to happen.”  Conflict, climate, displacement crisesOf the six countries, all are dealing with conflict, climate shocks and displacement crises. Ethiopia has also experienced below-average rainfall this year and a massive locust infestation, and in recent weeks has added the threat of civil conflict as tensions explode in the northern Tigray province.   “There’s a risk of this becoming a grave, grave humanitarian crisis,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday of the situation in northern Ethiopia.   In South Sudan, food prices have risen sharply since the start of coronavirus. The World Food Program (WFP) says basic ingredients cost 186 percent of a person’s daily income, meaning if people in New York had to pay the equivalent of their income for a meal, it would cost $393.   In Burkina Faso, conflict has been on the rise, and the country is coping with the fastest-growing displacement crisis on the planet. Famine currently threatens about 11,000 people in two northern provinces.   “The prospect of a return to a world in which famines are commonplace would be heart-wrenching and obscene in a world where there is more than enough food for everyone,” Lowcock said.  He and WFP chief David Beasley warned in a joint opinion piece in The Times of London Tuesday that, “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,” they wrote. “Famines are a stain on humanity. Now is the time to act.”  The U.N.’s World Food Program feeds some 100 million people a year across the planet. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month for its work to combat hunger and help contribute to better conditions for peace. 

SJ

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