By Lisa Zengarini
Save the Children is urging for immediate international action to save the lives of millions of children and their families who are facing the worst food crisis in decades.
“The combined impact of conflict, climate change, COVID and the cost of inflated food prices as a result of the conflict in Ukraine has brought 750,000 people to face famine. Another 49 million people could soon follow if they do not receive immediate support”, warned Gabriella Waaijman, Humanitarian Director of Save the Children. ”In recent decades enormous progress has been made to reduce hunger in the world. However the progress we have achieved is now reversing “, she added
276 million suffering from hunger
According to the international humanitarian organisation, which has been fighting to save girls and boys at risk and guarantee them a future for over 100 years, the latest data available show that the number of people suffering from hunger has more than doubled in two years, rising from 135 million to 276 million. The worst hit countries are in North-Eastern Africa, in the Middle East and some part of Asia.
Currently 750,000 people are facing hunger conditions in five nations- Ethiopia, Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Somalia – due to drought which adds to the effects of conflict, political instability, and COVID-19.
War in Ukraine exacerbating food crisis
Moreover, the ongoing war in Ukraine has disrupted the global food system, causing the prices of wheat and sunflower oil to skyrocket and exacerbating the serious food crisis in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen, to the Horn of Africa and to the Sahel region in West Africa, where more and more children are suffering life-threatening levels of malnutrition.
The Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is reeling from a drought after four consecutive seasons without rain. Over 18 million people in the region are presently facing acute food insecurity and there are fears of a repeat of the humanitarian disaster that struck Somalia in 2011, when the lack of international intervention led to a famine that killed 260,000 people, half of whom were children under 5 years. Children suffering from malnutrition in the country are already rapidly increasing, and 1.5 million are expected to be acutely malnourished by the end of the year.
In some areas of northern Kenya, the only water available for families comes from cattle troughs, resulting in the spread of debilitating diseases which particularly affect children.
In neighbouring Ethiopia an alarming increase of incidents of hungry wild animals attacking people carrying food has been recorded. In South Sudan, an already critical humanitarian situation has been further exacerbated by the third consecutive year of major floods, leaving around 63% of the population – 7.7 million people – struggling with high levels of food insecurity.
In Asia the most critical situation is in Afghanistan where, according to the latest estimates, 9.6 million children suffer from hunger every day due to the economic collapse that has followed the Taliban takeover in August 2021, an ongoing drought and to the impact of the war in Ukraine.
$ 28.5 million to 19 countries
In response to the crisis, Save the Children said it has allocated $ 28.5 million to 19 countries threatened by hunger-related emergencies. These include Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, as well as Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti.
At the same time the humanitarian organization is calling for additional international funding to prevent famine and provide urgent life-saving services to the communities most at risk. “We know that the causes of hunger today require innovative and long-term solutions that establish the basis for people’s resilience and address the root causes”, said Waaijman. Together, with governments, donors, partners and communities, we must change the course of this global crisis to create a safe and healthy world for our children, free from suffering and hunger”.