Hunger crisis for 270 million facing famine, NGOs warn

By Melissa Coade

Wednesday April 21, 2021

Two hundred NGOs have published an urgent letter calling for world leaders to provide aid for food relief to the UN’s 2021 food security appeal. (Image: Adobe/ agarianna)

A group of 200 NGOs have published an urgent letter calling for world leaders to provide aid for food relief to the UN’s 2021 food security appeal. 

By April only 5.3% of the $10.8 billion target for this year has been committed by international donors for the UN’s food security appeal.

“This assistance must begin immediately and reach as directly as possible the people most in need, now, so they can take action to feed themselves today and in the future,” the letter read. 

“All countries should contribute their full and fair share, without diverting resources from meeting other pressing humanitarian needs.”

Widespread hunger in some of the world’s poorest countries like Afghanistan and South Sudan have been exacerbated by conflict, affecting the delivery of aid to vulnerable communities, and rising food prices. 

Across 58 countries there are 174 million people already at risk of dying from malnutrition or lack of food, World Vision says, and this figure will grow in coming months without urgent aid. 

The people affected by hunger have lives and names — Fayda from Lahj governorate in Yemen tells a story of humanitarian workers who visited her hut, assuming she had food because smoke was coming from her kitchen.

“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,” Fayda  said.

The NGOs have called for state leaders to declare a ceasefire in conflict zones and allow humanitarian assistance to deliver food to starving civilians. At the outset of COVID-19, the UN Secretary General also called for a ceasefire to address the pandemic but little has changed.

“It is human actions that are driving famine and hunger and it is our actions that can stop the worst impacts,” the NGO’s letter to state leaders said.

“We call on you to provide the additional $5.5 billion needed for urgent food assistance to reach more than 34 million girls, boys, women and men around the globe who are a step away from famine.”

According to the UN, an estimated 270 million people were either at high risk of, or already facing, acute levels of hunger by the end of 2020

Four months into the new year and the famine situation has worsened with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reporting that world food prices reached a seven-year high in February 2021.

COVID-19 has increased to the sharp growth in worldwide hunger, with fewer contributions being made to address the food needs of vulnerable people as governments and donors grapple with resourcing their own domestic needs. 

“Girls and boys, men and women, are being starved by conflict and violence; by inequality; by the impacts of climate change; by the loss of land, jobs or prospects; by a fight against COVID-19 that has left them even further behind,” the NGOs said. 

World Vision International president and CEO Andrew Morley said the fact starvation has already reached so many showed a ‘clear and catastrophic moral failure by the international community’.

Let me be direct: there is no place or excuse for famine in the 21st century,” Morley said.

In 2021 Australia contributed more than $14 million to the World Food Programme, ranking 21st behind Pakistan and Colombia.


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