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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

Fear of Four Famines: children will die if we fail to act

FAO Director-General: "Peace is the most fundamental element to putting an end to this humanitarian crisis"

12 June 2017, Rome - Heartbreaking. Devastating. Appalling. With famine declared in parts of South Sudan and its shadow looming large over Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, these were a few of the words used to describe the unfolding humanitarian crises in the four countries fighting famine.

To draw attention to the complexities of these emergencies and intensify calls for increased resources for response, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) convened a high-level meeting on the threatened ‘Four Famines’ at WFP Headquarters in Rome on Monday (12 June).

The meeting presented the gravity of the crisis in stark and foreboding terms.

“Where WFP has funding and access, we are preventing famine and saving lives,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “But the truth is, we’re not securing the funding required to fight looming famines. If we don’t get the resources needed, one child will die every 12 seconds.”

 

Dr Maryan Qasim, Somalia Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster (L), and Dr Nazar Basuhaib, Yemen Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, at the high-level meeting. Photo: WFP/Giulio Napolitano

Co-hosted by Beasley and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, the event featured Ministerial-level participation from the four countries, in addition to Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Josefa Leonel, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission.

While expressing appreciation for the efforts of the international community working to save the lives of millions of people at risk, ministers from the affected countries gave voice to those struck by hunger and disease.

“Coming from a country that has had more than its fair share of calamities, I want to highlight the inner strength of our men and women who wake up each day to hunger, disease and insecurity,” said Dr Maryan Qasim, Somalia Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster. “The situation for our women and children is particularly dire.”

 

WFP has been providing food to people driven from their homes in northeastern Nigeria. Photo: WFP/Amadou Baraze

Addressing the situation in his country, Yemen Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Dr Nazar Basuhaib, referred to the magnitude and unprecedented nature of the disaster in his country. Recalling the April 2017 High-level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen and the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, Basuhaib thanked donors while stating that “this exceptional plan requires an exceptional response”.

A common thread tying the four countries together are the human-made conflicts that have devastated lives and decimated livelihoods.

Nigeria Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, while noting the enhanced cooperation between his government and humanitarian agencies, stressed that his government is working to address the root causes of insurgency while working to rebuild the northeast of the country.

 

Children sharing a meal in Sana’a, Yemen, but the threat of famine looms large. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

While mindful of the millions in need of emergency assistance in his country, South Sudan Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Hussein Mar Nyuot said his government is determined to improve access and protection of aid workers.

Concluding the meeting, Graziano da Silva stressed: “Peace is the most fundamental element to putting an end to this humanitarian crisis. But we can’t wait for peace before starting to take action.”

The meeting took place on the opening day of the Annual Session of the WFP Executive Board, 12–15 June.

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