Governments should give single day's military spending to fight hunger
Aid organisations call on governments to give a single day’s military spending to fight hunger. Only 26 hours of global military spending is enough to cover the $5.5 billion needed to help most at risk.
A year on since the UN warned of “famines of biblical proportions”, rich donors have funded just 5% of the UN’s $7.8bn food security appeal for 2021.
More than 200 NGOs published an open letter today calling upon all governments to urgently increase aid to stop over 34 million people from being pushed to the brink of starvation this year.
The $5.5bn additional funding recently called for by the UN WFP and FAO is equivalent to less than 26 hours of the $1.9 trillion that countries spend each year on the military. Yet, as more and more people go to bed hungry, conflict is increasing.
Acute levels of hunger
At the end of 2020 the UN estimated that 270 million people were either at high risk of, or already facing, acute levels of hunger. Already 174 million people in 58 countries have reached that level and are at risk of dying from malnutrition or lack of food, and this figure is only likely to rise in coming months if nothing is done immediately.
Globally, average food prices are now the highest in seven years.
Conflict is the biggest driver of global hunger, also exacerbated by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. From Yemen, to Afghanistan, South Sudan and Northern Nigeria, conflicts and violence are forcing millions to the brink of starvation.
Many in conflict zones have shared horrifying stories of hunger. Fayda from Lahj governorate in Yemen says: “When humanitarian workers came to my hut, they thought I had food because smoke was coming from my kitchen. But I was not cooking food for my children – instead I could only give them hot water and herbs, after which they went to sleep hungry. I thought about suicide several times but I did not do it because of my children.”
Calling for ceasefire and sustainable solutions to conflict
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic the UN Secretary General called for a global ceasefire to address the pandemic but too few leaders have sought to implement it. Global leaders must support durable and sustainable solutions to conflict, and open pathways for humanitarians to access those in conflict zones to save lives.
Amb. Ahmed Shehu, Regional Coordinator for the Civil Society Network of Lake Chad Basin said: “The situation here is really dire. Seventy percent of people in this region are farmers but they can’t access their land because of violence, so they can’t produce food. These farmers have been providing food for thousands for years – now they have become beggars themselves. Food production is lost, so jobs are lost, so income is lost, so people cannot buy the food. Then, we as aid workers cannot safely even get to people to help them. Some of our members risked the journey to reach starving communities and were abducted – we don’t know where they are. This has a huge impact on those of us desperate to help.”
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said:
We are witnessing a devastating global hunger crisis, which will hit girls and women the hardest.
In countries like South Sudan, we are already hearing reports of hunger-related deaths and families going entire days without food. Others are making heartbreaking choices, marrying their daughters early or saving what little food they have for working members of the household. It is critical that world leaders step up and provide more funding for humanitarian assistance – otherwise, we risk millions of avoidable deaths.”
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An open letter to States and their Leaders from the civil society organizations working with and for the 270 million people facing hunger, starvation or famine all over the world.
Every day, we bear witness to suffering and resilience. In Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, DRC, Honduras, Venezuela, Nigeria, Haiti, CAR, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sudan and beyond we help people who are doing all they can to simply get through one more day.
Every day, we work with people who are fully capable of producing or earning enough to feed themselves and their families. These people are not starving, they are being starved. These girls and boys, men and women, are being starved by conflict and violence; by inequality; by the impacts of climate change; by the loss of land, jobs or prospects; by a fight against COVID-19 that has left them even further behind.
Every day, we see that it is women and girls who suffer the most.
Every day, we share stories and evidence of hunger, starvation, and increasing humanitarian needs. Yet this does not prompt urgent action or sufficient funding. The widening gap between the great needs we face and the limited assistance we are able to provide threatens to steal what hope remains. We cannot allow all hope to be lost.
It is human actions that are driving famine and hunger and it is our actions that can stop the worst impacts. We all have a part to play. But you, as Leaders, States and main duty bearers, have a unique responsibility. We call on you to take action now.
We call on you to provide the additional $5.5 billion needed for urgent food assistance to reach more than 34 million girls, boys, women and men around the globe who are a step away from famine. This assistance must begin immediately and reach as directly as possible the people most in need, now, so they can take action to feed themselves today and in the future. All countries should contribute their full and fair share, without diverting resources from meeting other pressing humanitarian needs.
We plead with you to enhance your efforts and work with all parties to end conflict and violence in all its forms. The UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire must be immediately heeded. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach communities without barriers or impediments so we can urgently support those most in need.
We urge you to invest in alleviating poverty and hunger, in giving people the tools they need to build more resilient futures for themselves, sustainably adapt to climate change and guard against the shocks of COVID-19. This will help to prevent future conflict and displacement. This will prevent future hunger and famines.
There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century. History will judge us all by the actions we take today.
- Add your organisation to the open letter
- Among the key signatories to the letter : Oxfam, CARE International, the Danish Refugee Council, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, World Vision, the Islamic Relief, and Plan International
- In the first quarter of 2021, donors have provided just 6.1% of the total $36 billion requested in the UN humanitarian appeals for the year. In the food security sector, donors met only 5.3% or $415 million of the total $7.8bn requested. (figures as of April 7, 2021)
- The military spending figures are based on 2019 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which estimated global military spending at $1.9tn.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), world food prices stood at their highest level in seven years in February 2021
- The study by Development Initiatives of the impact of COVID-19 on aid levels, found substantial declines in aid commitments in 2020 for Canada, Germany, the UK and the US, and a small decline for EU institutions. No data are provided on France, Italy and Japan.
- The latest figures on global hunger levels are as of March 2021 from FAO-WPF’s Hunger Hotspots report.
- In December the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview warned the number of acutely food insecure people could rise to 270million by the end of 2020. FAO & WFP echoed this estimate in their call to action to avert famine in February 2021.
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