- FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva warned that without urgent intervention, 20 million people will starve to death over the next six months in South Sudan, Somalia, north-eastern Nigeria and Yemen.
- UNICEF reported that 22 million children across these countries “are hungry, sick, displaced and out of school,” mainly because of conflict.
- ECLAC and WFP released a report, titled ‘The Cost of the Double Burden of Malnutrition,’ which calculates losses in productivity, health and education in Chile, Ecuador and Mexico.
- The Government of Iraq and the WFP conducted a 'Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis,' which reveals that 2.5% of Iraqis are already food insecure while nearly 75% of children under the age of 15 work to provide food for their families.
- The FAO report, titled ‘Counting the Cost: Agriculture in Syria after six years of crisis,’ gives the first comprehensive nationwide assessment of damage to the country's agriculture sector.
April 2017: The 165th session of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Council opened with FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva warning that, without urgent intervention, 20 million people will starve to death over the next six months in South Sudan, Somalia, north-eastern Nigeria and Yemen.
The report argues that climate change and water insecurity are the largest challenges to ending hunger and achieving sustainable agriculture, outside of conflict, a primary driver.
The warning comes about a month after FAO released the ‘Global Report on Food Crises 2017,’ which established that in 2016, 108 million people around the world faced crisis level food insecurity, a 35% increase over 2015. The report attributes the rising number of people who need urgent assistance in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, Burundi and the Central African Republic (CAR) to conflict, drought and high food prices. The report notes worsening conditions for each of Northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The FAO also released a report, titled ‘2016 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in the Near East and North Africa,’ which also discusses the impacts of conflict on regional nutrition and food security.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reiterated the impacts of both conflict and unsafe water on the hunger crises, reporting that that 22 million children across Northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen “are hungry, sick, displaced and out of school,” mainly because of conflict. It cautioned that “nearly 1.4 million are at imminent risk of death this year from severe malnutrition.” According to the agency: in northeast Nigeria, fighting Boko Haram has damaged or destroyed 75% of water and sanitation infrastructure: in Somalia, about one-third of the population needs access to water and sanitation; approximately 5.1 million people lack safe water, sanitation and hygiene in South Sudan; and in Yemen, fighting displaced at least 14.5 million people, leaving them without basic sanitation and adequate drinking water.
In a press release, Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, said that “unsafe water can cause malnutrition or make it worse, no matter how much food a malnourished child eats, he or she will not get better if the water they are drinking is not safe.” [Global Report on Food Crises 2017] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Famine] [UNICEF Press Release] [UN Press Release on Food Crises Report] [FAO Press Release on Council Opening] [2016 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in the Near East and North Africa] [FAO Press Release on NENA Report] [UN Press Release on FAO NENA Report] [UN Press Release on Water and Sanitation Situation]
At a media briefing on 11 April, Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that “an avoidable humanitarian crisis in Africa and Yemen, possibly worse than that of 2011, is fast becoming an inevitability.” The briefing highlighted food insecurity and malnutrition among refugee populations, highlighting, inter alia, inadequate funds to purchase rations. According to a UN press release on the briefing, rations were cut by up to 75% in Uganda, by 12% in Djibouti, and between 20-50% in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda. In southeast Ethiopia, acute malnutrition rates among newly arriving Somali refugee children between 6 months and five years old were between 50-79%. On 7 April, the World Food Programme (WFP) was able to resume full rations for refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab (the world’s largest) and Kakuma refugee camps, but said that the funding currently available for cash transfers (which account for 30% of the refugees’ food assistance) would only last through May. Dadaab borders Somalia, while Kakuma borders South Sudan and Uganda. Last year, the WFP had to cut rations 50% due to a lack of funds. [UN Press Release on UNHCR Briefing] [UN Press Release on Kenya Camp Rations]
In Somalia, UNICEF has noted a 58% increase in the number of children (35,400) treated for severe acute malnutrition over the same January-February time frame in 2016. According to the agency, as of 28 March, more than 18,400 cases of cholera/acute watery diarrhea were reported since the beginning of the year, far surpassing the 15,600 cases reported in all of 2016. The majority of the cases are among young children. The agency says there are no exact figures available for the number of children who have died from hunger or malnutrition because these children are also more vulnerable to disease.
In February, UNICEF projected that 944,000 children would be acutely malnourished in 2017, a figure, it notes, that could sharply rise if April rains are inadequate. UNICEF Somalia raised its 2017 funding requirement from $66 million to $147 million, with a funding gap of 54% as of mid-March. On the 21 March, FAO announced that the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) approved a $22 million loan that will support its activities in drought-affected areas of Somalia. Measures implemented under FAO’s Famine Prevention and Drought Response Plan will include: providing cash; meeting immediate food and water needs; providing agriculture- and fisheries-based livelihood support; and saving livestock assets and related food and income. The CERF funds will complement loans already provided by FAO’s Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities.
On the 21 April, WFP announced an air drop in Mogadishu of enough high-energy biscuits to assist 31,000 people for three days, noting that other live-saving food assistance would follow. [UN Press Release on Somalia, 28 March] [FAO Press Release on CERF Funds] [WFP Press Release on Biscuits]
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