UN Issues Urgent Appeal for $4.4 Billion in Famine Aid

UN Issues Urgent Appeal for $4.4 Billion in Famine Aid

The United Nations is calling on the international community to take urgent, coordinated action in four countries facing famine.

In a speech last week to the UN Security Council, UN undersecretary-general and emergency relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien reiterated the appeal made by UN secretary-general António Guterres in February for at least $4.4 billion in aid to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. "[W]e are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations," said O'Brien. "Now, more than twenty million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures, and hope will be lost. Communities' resilience rapidly wilting away. Development gains reversed. Many will be displaced and will continue to move in search for survival, creating ever more instability across entire regions."

In Yemen, about two-thirds of the population of more than eighteen million are in need of assistance, including more than seven million who are struggling with severe food insecurity, as fighting continues to exacerbate the crisis there. In South Sudan, where a famine has been officially declared, more than 7.5 million people are in need of assistance, including some 3.4 million displaced persons, an increase of 1.4 million from last year. Similarly, more than half the population of Somalia – some 6.2 million people — need aid, with more than a million children under the age of five at the risk of acute malnourishment. In Nigeria, 10.7 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection, said O'Brien, including 7.1 million people who are severely food insecure. And in northern Kenya, more than 2.7 million people are food insecure as a result of drought.

"It was right to sound the alarm early, not wait for the pictures of emaciated dying children [...] to mobilize a reaction and the funds," O'Brien said of the secretary-general's earlier appeal. "Now we need the international community and this council to act." In urging prompt action to tackle the factors causing famine, committing sufficient and timely financial support, and ensuring that fighting stops, O'Brien also underscored the need to ensure that humanitarian aid workers have safe, full, and unimpeded access and that parties engaged in conflict in the affected countries respect humanitarian law.

"Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine — as are those not intervening to make the violence stop," said O'Brien. "It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes. It is all preventable."