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Africans starve while the world watches Ukraine

11 April 2022

Charities speak of urgent humanitarian needs unmet after attention diverted


A malnourished child photographed last month at the Iftin camp for internally displaced people outside Baradere, in Jubaland, southern Somalia

A malnourished child photographed last month at the Iftin camp for internally displaced people outside Baradere, in Jubaland, southern Somalia

CHARITIES and other humanitarian organisations have warned that the huge response to the war in Ukraine is overshadowing other crises around the world that are in need of urgent attention.

Charities and NGOs have begun urging governments and individuals not to forget the millions who are suffering in other countries.

The United Nations has warned that the situation in Somalia, where 4.5 million people are at risk of starvation owing to the worst drought in a decade, is deteriorating rapidly. The focus of the international community on Ukraine was sucking all the oxygen out of the room, Adam Abdelmoula, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said last week.

The UN has said that $1.46 billion (£1.1 billion) is required to meet the immediate needs of Somalis. Only three per cent of that has been secured.

“The outlook was already grim prior to the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis,” Mr Abdelmoula said. “We have been overshadowed by the crisis in Tigray, Yemen, Afghanistan — and now Ukraine seems to suck all the oxygen that is in the room. . .

“If nothing is done, it is projected that, by the summer of this year, 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in the country, will perish,” he warned.

“Already in this country, 70 per cent of school-age children are not attending school.” He reported that girls were being married off early because their families could not feed them.

The international director of Tearfund, Veena O’Sullivan, said: “While the eyes of the world have been fixed on Ukraine, other horrors have been taking place. With attention elsewhere, there is a risk that the cries of millions of marginalised and oppressed people are going unheard.”

She referred to “a hunger crisis of massive proportions” going on in the Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, and ongoing violence and famine in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as well as humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria.

The director of Cafod, Christine Allen, said: “It is right that we support a response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine in whatever way we can, but this cannot be at the expense of vital funds meant for tackling the root causes of global poverty.

“Our sisters and brothers around the world — including in Afghanistan, Syria, and South Sudan — are facing daily the impacts of conflict and food scarcity, as well as climate change and Covid-19. Without the essential support of UK’s aid budget, such situations will get worse and continue to be a blight on all humanity.

“Over the last month, we have seen the enormous generosity shown by Cafod supporters and the British public towards people affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Now, the UK Government must also step up to protect those in need all around the world.”

The secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, has also called for an equal response to the aid needs in Europe and around the world.

Mr Egeland said: “I hope that the outpouring of resources for Ukraine, the volunteerism for Ukraine, the willingness to receive and shield and help Ukrainians, will also be translated to the emergencies elsewhere from Syria to Ethiopia, from Afghanistan to Venezuela.”

Church leaders in Africa have described how the war is already affecting food security — 40 per cent of Ukraine’s wheat and maize is exported to the Middle East and Africa. The poorest are the most affected as market prices rise. Russia is also the world’s largest producer of fertiliser.

“Where it is now, the war has already caused a lot of uncertainty. It is not only in food, but many other sectors. In Africa, it affects everybody, but, most especially, people at the bottom of the ladder. It is threatening to drop more people into poverty,” the general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches, the Revd Nicta Lubaale, said.

“So, how they are going to enter into this — a crisis that is many thousands of kilometres away, yet it is impacting on them, and this comes in the midst of other things like climate change?”

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