UN calls for accelerated global action as famine threatens 20 million lives

  • March 14, 2017

After visiting African countries that are at the risk of famine or are already facing famine, namely Kenya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien strongly urged the international community to immediately intervene to “save people from simply starving to death.”

In a statement to the Security Council, he said, “We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN. The appeal for action by the Secretary-General can thus not be understated. It was right to sound the alarm early, not wait for the pictures of emaciated dying children to mobilize a reaction and the funds.”

The United Nations humanitarian official added, “I continue to reiterate the same message to all- only a political solution will ultimately end human suffering and bring stability to the region,” he said, noting that with access and funding, humanitarians will do more, but cautioned that relief-workers were “not the long-term solution to the growing crisis.”

Calling on the South Sudanese authorities to translate their assurances of unconditional access into action on the ground Stephen O’Brien asserted, “The famine in the country is man-made. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine – as are those not intervening to make the violence stop.

The current indicators mirror the tragic picture of 2011, when Somalia last suffered a famine.”

Expressing hope that a famine can be averted with strong national leadership he affirmed, “In collaboration with the Government [of Kenya], the UN will soon launch an appeal of $200 million to provide timely life-saving assistance and protection. This is very good news, and I commend those who made such generous pledges,” he said but noted that more was needed to fully fund the $1.5 billion required to provide the assistance needed across the region. Now we need the international community and this Council to act,” he highlighted, urging prompt action to tackle the factors causing famine; committing sufficient and timely financial support; and ensuring that fighting stops.

Concluding on a positive note, he said, “It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes. It is all preventable.”

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