World Bank Group President calls for urgent action on hunger crisis

Mar 12, 2017, 01:01
World Bank Group President calls for urgent action on hunger crisis

Stephen O'Brien, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said on Friday that more than 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria are facing the threat of starvation and famine.

Mr O'Brien said a major injection of cash was needed now for Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria "to avert a catastrophe".

"To be precise", O'Brien said, "we need $4.4 billion by July".

Following that immediate impact will be the repercussions of hungry children being unable to attend school, economic and social development processes slowing and reversing, instability due to displacement and "livelihoods, futures and hope lost", he said. "Many more will suffer and die from disease".

"Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations [in 1945]", UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council on Friday.

Some 19 million people - or two thirds of Yemen's population - are in need of some sort of humanitarian help. In early March, about 110 people died in a two-day period.

During recent meetings, O'Brien said senior leaders in both parties agreed to provide continuous humanitarian access and respect worldwide humanitarian law.

For 2017, O'Brien said $2.1bn is needed to reach 12 million Yemenis "with life-saving assistance and protection" but only 6 percent has been received so far.

O'Brien said the warning call and appeal for action by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres could not be understated.

This threatens the lives of more than 17 million people in the states of the Horn of Africa with drought affecting Djibouti, Eretria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

For instance, food insecurity in Somalia and starvation in South Sudan are accelerating the flow of refugees into Ethiopia and Uganda.

He says the United Nations and its partners are ready to boost their response efforts but they need much more help with access and funding. Estimates in December showed that there were 75,000 children at risk of starving to death. "Meanwhile, the cholera outbreak that began in June 2016 has spread to more locations". Starvation was officially declared on February 20 in South Sudan, impacting approximately 100,000 people, and there is a credible risk of other famines in Yemen, Northeast Nigeria, and other countries.

The World Bank group is set to mobilise immediate response for people threatened by starvation in Nigeria and five other countries.

Over a million children younger than five are at risk of acute malnourishment, while women and children walk for weeks in search of food and water having lost their livestock and been left with dried up water sources.