A malnourished newborn baby lies in an incubator at the Al Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. File/AP
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made an urgent appeal on Thursday for $5.5 billion to prevent a "catastrophe” for millions of people around the world risk dying of hunger and the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change are increasing the threat.
"Without immediate action, millions of people will reach the brink of extreme hunger and death," Guterres told the Security Council during a meeting on the links between food and security, according to AFP.
Over three dozen countries who are just one step away from famine driven by conflict — and the World Food Program chief warned that 270 million people are facing "a hunger crisis” this year.
"Climate shocks and the Covid-19 pandemic are adding fuel to the flames. I have one simple message: if you don't feed people, you feed conflict," he said.
US Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a meeting. File photo
"Famine and hunger are no longer about lack of food. They are now largely man-made -- and I use the term deliberately There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century."
World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said leaders responded to his warning to the council a year ago that the world stood on the brink of the COVID-19 pandemic and a hunger pandemic that could push the number of people "marching to the brink of starvation” from 135 million to 270 million and lead to "famines of biblical proportions” in over three dozen countries.
At the end of 2020, more than 88 million people were suffering from acute hunger due to conflict and instability -- a 20 percent increase in one year, he said, pointing to a worsening trend in 2021.
A woman holds her malnourished boy at a feeding centre at the Al Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. File/AP
High-risk zones include the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told how she saw a two-year-old girl die of hunger in Uganda in 1993.
"There's no reason we can't get resources to people in acute need," the ambassador said.
"In today's world, famine is human-made. And if it is caused by us, that means it must be stopped by us too," Thomas-Greenfield added.
Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher said people in these areas "are not starving -- they are being starved."
She added: "It makes little difference to the hungry whether they are being starved by deliberate action or the callous negligence of conflict parties or the international community."
WFP Executive Director David Beasley speaks to journalists in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. File/AP
Guterres said that in order to save 34 million people in the high risk zones, the United Nations and its agencies have appealed for emergency mobilization of $5.5 billion.
Guterres announced he was launching a task force "to avert catastrophe," with representation from the World Food Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Countries' responsibilities do not end with simply donating money for food aid, said Bucher of Oxfam.
She denounced "an international community whose most powerful states too often drive starvation with a plentiful supply of weapons."
She cited as examples the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and Yemen.She said the council "should deepen its work on this topic," guarantee humanitarian access to dangerously hungry people and "also take any opportunity to create meaningful accountability for starvation crimes."
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