STATES AND DONOR COUNTRIES are being urged by NGOs including Christian Aid 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 on the brink of famine.

In a joint letter published on 20 April, civil society organisations and NGOs including Christian Aid declare: “There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century.” And yet, many millions of people are today going without the minimum of 1,200 calories needed to survive  – barely half of the recommended daily intake for a healthy diet.

The main drivers of the international hunger crisis are conflict, weather extremes, transboundary threats such as desert locusts, economic shocks compounded by the effects of COVID-19, and access constraints. There is a toxic interplay between conflict, climate crisis and pandemics.

Up to 270 million people were acutely food insecure or at high risk at the outset of 2021, according to the World Food Programme. More than 34 million people are teetering on the edge of famine and the slightest shock will push them over into famine without urgent, immediate life-saving action.

In the DRC alone, 27.3 million people are facing acute food shortages – the highest number in the world. Christian Aid’s DRC country director Moise Liboto said: “27.3 million people face high acute food shortages in DRC, due to protracted conflict, limited access to improved production capacity, and unfair distribution of resources including land and water, which, cumulatively, continues to drive population displacements and weaken the economy. Land degradation due to poorly regulated mining activities, weak disaster risk management systems, and the global climate crisis cause further instability, displacements, and suffering. Without urgent funding to respond to the immediate needs and address the underlying causes more sustainably, there are risks that their situation will worsen, and for yet more people to be affected.”

And Christian Aid’s South Sudan country director James Wani said: “Food shortages have escalated across South Sudan. Floods, conflict and Covid-19 are a deadly trio, but the deadliest driver is continued violence and armed conflict. To combat this, what we need in South Sudan is rapid action to halt the march towards famine, including an expedited scale-up of food and nutrition in communities already grappling with famine, and a massive renewed effort to implement the 2018 peace agreement.”

In conflict-affected northern Nigeria meanwhile, the localities of Abadam, Dikwa, Guzamala, Kukawa and Marte in Borno state face the risk of famine should the situation further deteriorate.

Text of the open letter:

An open letter to States and their Leaders from the civil society organisations working with and for the 270 million people facing hunger, starvation or famine all over the world:

Every day, we bear witness to suffering and resilience. In Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, DRC, Honduras, Venezuela, Nigeria, Haiti, CAR, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sudan and beyond we help people who are doing all they can to simply get through one more day. Every day, we work with people who are fully capable of producing or earning enough to feed themselves and their families.These people are not starving, they are being starved. These 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. Every day, we see that it is women and girls who suffer the most. Every day, we share stories and evidence of hunger, starvation, and increasing humanitarian needs. Yet this does not prompt urgent action or sufficient funding. The widening gap between the great needs we face and the limited assistance we are able to provide threatens to steal what hope remains.

We cannot allow all hope to be lost. It is human actions that are driving famine and hunger and it is our actions that can stop the worst impacts. We all have a part to play. But you, as Leaders, States and main duty bearers, have a unique responsibility. We call on you to take action now.

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. 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. All countries should contribute their full and fair share, without diverting resources from meeting other pressing humanitarian needs. We plead with you to enhance your efforts and work with all parties to end conflict and violence in all its forms.

The UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire must be immediately heeded. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach communities without barriers or impediments so we can urgently support those most in need. We urge you to invest in alleviating poverty and hunger, in giving people the tools they need to build more resilient futures for themselves, sustainably adapt to climate change and guard against the shocks of COVID-19. This will help to prevent future conflict and displacement. This will prevent future hunger and famines.

There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century. History will judge us all by the actions we take today.

* Source: Christian Aid