WFP Welcomes Commitment to Famine Prevention by G7

June 15, 2021
Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad

ROME – This weekend, leaders of the G7 acknowledged the unprecedented humanitarian crisis our world faces today as more than 34 million people teeter on the edge of famine and endorsed a Famine Prevention Compact to urgently address the problem. This is a welcome move.

We can pull each of these 34 million individuals back from the brink, prevent starvation and save millions of lives and livelihoods. All we need is the funding and access to do so.

Within the Compact, the G7 leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to provide $7 billion in vital humanitarian assistance and take diplomatic action to promote humanitarian access. These elements of the Compact are the minimum requirements that must be actioned immediately to save lives.

In March, the U.N. World Food Programme and FAO called for $5.5 billion to scale-up operations and avert widespread famine. At that time, this was roughly 40 percent of our yearly operational budget. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls continue to hold us back from preventing famine from taking a grip in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Madagascar and, most recently, the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

For the next six months alone, the U.N. World Food Programme requires $4.5 billion and the consequences of inaction and funding shortfalls will be measured in lost lives, and setbacks in progress towards long-term development goals.

Due to funding issues, the U.N. World Food Programme is, in some cases, taking food from the hungry to give to the starving. People in South Sudan and Yemen, two countries with some people already living in famine-like conditions, have faced ration cuts in the first half of this year. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso funding gaps forced the U.N. World Food Programme to reduce food assistance by up to 50 percent for 1.4 million people during the lean season and in Madagascar, only those facing catastrophic levels of hunger (IPC5) receive full rations and for people where the hunger situation is at emergency levels (IPC4) food assistance has been cut in half.

Insecurity also poses constraints to U.N. World Food Programme operations. While we have managed to scale up despite serious challenges in northern Mozambique and ‘stay and deliver’ in Afghanistan,  we struggle to reach people in countries such as the Central Sahel region, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

For example, in Tigray, where 350,000 people face catastrophic levels of hunger, humanitarian access is the main challenge to the U.N. World Food Programme being able to expend operations and humanitarian assistance is still being blocked by armed groups. Collective action must be taken quickly to ensure that this window of opportunity is not missed and we can reverse the current life-threatening deterioration in food security.

Our ability to save lives depends on unimpeded humanitarian access and having funding commitments fulfilled so we’re able to expand and reach those who are most in need.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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