UN releases $100M to guard against famine

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has allocated $100 million to help people feed themselves in countries most at risk from the growing hunger epidemic caused by conflict, economic decline, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen will each receive a share of 80 million dollars from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Xinhua reported.

An extra 20 million dollar has been set aside for anticipatory action to fight hunger in Ethiopia, where droughts could exacerbate an already fragile situation, said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on its website.

The funding has been released alongside a warning that without immediate action, famine could be a reality in the coming months in parts of Burkina Faso, North-east Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. This would be the first time famine has been declared since 2017 in parts of South Sudan.

“The prospect of a return to a world in which famines are commonplace would be heart wrenching and obscene in a world where there is more than enough food for everyone,” said the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

“No one should view a slide into famine as an inevitable side effect of this pandemic. If it happens it is because the world has allowed it to happen. Famine can be prevented. But we have to act in time to make a difference. Right now, more money for the aid operation is the quickest and most efficient way to support famine-prevention efforts,” OCHA said.

CERF’s 80 million dollars cash injection will be distributed via cash and voucher programming, one of the most efficient, flexible and cost-effective ways to help people in dire need. It will be targeted at the most vulnerable – especially women and girls, and people with disabilities, according to OCHA.

A total of 20 million dollars has been set aside for anticipatory action for food insecurity and drought in Ethiopia. Already high levels of acute food insecurity are likely to be exacerbated by the October-December Deyr-Hageya rainy season, together with civil unrest, growing insecurity, locust infestations, and the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, which includes declining incomes and rising inflation.