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Act to feed the 45 million on brink of famine, NGOs tell world leaders

02 December 2021

ALAMY

Basic food (here oil and flour) is distributed by NGOs in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 14 November. They warn that the humanitarian crisis is pushing the country into famine

Basic food (here oil and flour) is distributed by NGOs in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 14 November. They warn that the humanitarian crisis is pushing the co...

WORLD leaders must go beyond “grand gestures” to feed the 45 million people around the world who are on the brink of famine, 120 NGOs have warned.

An open letter was published on Wednesday by Action Against Hunger, and is signed by 15 international NGOs, including Christian Aid, World Vision, and CARE, alongside 105 local and national charities.

The UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview 2022, released on Thursday, reports that 274 million people could be in need of humanitarian assistance next year — up from 235 million people in 2021 and 168 million in 2020. To meet this need would require a package of measures costing $41 billion.

The Famine Prevention Compact, made by the G7 in May, has not been fulfilled, signatories of the letter say, and one in ten people are malnourished. “It is clear that, since then, the situation has only deteriorated. Grand gestures do not fill empty stomachs,” they write.

“Less than half the funding needed to stave off famine in six countries of highest concern (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Southern Madagascar, north-east Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen) has been received to date. Meanwhile, some Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) are less than 20% funded.”

Conflict, the climate crisis, economic shocks, and the ongoing pandemic had exacerbated the situation and would push millions more people into crisis-level hunger and malnutrition in 2022.

The letter states: “There has been a 370% rise in people experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger since April and now a staggering 45 million people are at extreme risk — on the brink of famine. These numbers do not tell the whole story. Behind them are people suffering immensely from a crisis that we can prevent. What will it take for this situation to change?”

Conflict prevention is essential, the NGOs write. Conflict leads to mass migration, millions of refugees, and is disproportionately affecting women and girls, who are at an increased risk of extreme hunger and gender-based violence.

“Supporting peacebuilding and conflict prevention is also crucial. Further, it is time that political commitments made to uphold international law, safeguard people’s human rights and secure access to aid are acted upon.

“All parties to a conflict must facilitate humanitarian access, protect civilians and desist from using starvation as a method of warfare. Obstacles, such as sanctions and access denial, to humanitarian action are severely compounding a crisis that cannot be healed with money alone.”

The chief executive of Christian Aid, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, said on Thursday: “It is hard to imagine what living with catastrophic starvation must be like. To wake up each day in desperate need of food and clean water to survive. As world leaders have talked these last six months, inaction is causing an escalating hunger crisis. . . If these worrying trends are to be stopped, real action and humanitarian intervention is needed urgently.”

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