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Millions on brink of famine in Africa and Afghanistan, UN warns

25 June 2021

Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua/Alamy Live News  

Farmers transplant rice seedlings in a paddy field in Mehtarlam, Laghman province, eastern Afghanistan, on Sunday

Farmers transplant rice seedlings in a paddy field in Mehtarlam, Laghman province, eastern Afghanistan, on Sunday

MILLIONS are on the brink of famine in parts of Africa and Afghanistan as the rest of the world turns its back to focus on domestic responses to Covid, the UN and aid agencies warn.

The UN estimates that 41 million people will be on the edge of famine by the end of this month, facing starvation without emergency food assistance. Its World Food Programme has launched a $5 (£3.6) billion appeal to support what it is calling the “biggest operation in its history”.

Christian Aid has also launched an emergency appeal, focusing on South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia — particularly Tigray, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.

In South Sudan, 60 per cent to the country’s population are struggling to get enough to eat, and 82 per cent are living in extreme poverty. Conflict is continuing in the country, despite a power-sharing deal in 2018 aimed at restoring peace.

The catastrophic food shortage in parts of Africa and Afghanistan has been worsened by Covid, but it is largely caused by ongoing conflicts, as well as the impact of climate change, the head of the humanitarian division at Christian Aid, Michael Mosselmans, said.

“So many people are suffering severe hunger in so many countries that we are operating in, how much we are going to be able to help depends on how generous our supporters and partners can be. The Covid situation is having a severe economic impact as well as a health impact.”

South Sudan has suffered a 59-per-cent cut in aid since the UK Government reneged on its target of 0.7 per cent of GDP for overseas aid, citing the cost of Covid recovery.

Mr Mosselmans said that the cuts were “disappointing and depressing”, and that the G7 had also failed to “do what was needed, on Covid vaccines and on tackling hunger”. The hunger crisis was being largely ignored as countries focused on their own response to Covid, he said.

Funds raised from the Christian Aid appeal will pay for increased food and cash distributions, and nutritional support — especially to children under five and pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as access to water for drinking and for agriculture and livestock, and support for start-up businesses.

Analysis from Save the Children last month has found that Britain is to spend 80 per cent less on feeding children in poorer countries than before the pandemic. Tens of thousands of children will be at risk of starvation as a result, the analysis concludes.

The World Food Programme’s 2021 Global Report on Food Crisis finds that 135 million people around the world are in need of support, the highest figure in the report’s five-year history.

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