Breaking the cycle of recurrent crises requires systemic improvements, including investing in climate-smart food production in conflict-affected regions, and reliable support mechanisms for isolated populations , victims of food shortages and soaring prices. This is essentially what the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are saying on the eve of the opening of the General Assembly of United Nations.
The international armed conflict in Ukraine has severely undermined global food supply systems and compromised future harvests in many countries due to its impact on access to fertilizers. The importance of accelerating grain exports under the Black Sea Grain Initiative cannot be overstated. The quantity of cereals reaching vulnerable populations in East Africa is still very insufficient.
If famine situations make the headlines, the crisis is likely to induce a feeling of weariness. Yet there is something frightening about the scale and enormity of the needs right now. More than 140 million people are in a state of severe food insecurity due to conflict and instability, at a time when climate change and economic insecurity suggest an increase in food needs in the coming months.
Now is the time to show political will and release resources. Without them, many people will die and the suffering will last for years. An emergency response alone will not end these famines. Concerted action and long-term strategies are the only way out of this trap.
While responding to emergency needs, it is essential to lay the foundations for resilience. Governments, private sectors, relief and development organizations must redouble their efforts and fund plans to safeguard long-term food security, livelihoods and resilience.
Various measures are necessary. In particular, it is important to invest in strengthening food systems and local actors to establish food and economic security on a sustainable basis. In particular, it is necessary to anticipate and base its action in favor of food security on forecasts and a risk analysis.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation, said: “Nearly 25 countries in Africa are going through their worst food crisis in decades. Some 22 million people in the Horn of Africa are struggling with famine, which is the result of various factors such as drought, floods, the economic consequences of Covid-19, conflicts, and even the invasion of locusts. Behind these staggering figures are human beings in the flesh – men, women and children – who fight hunger and death every day. And the situation is expected to deteriorate further in 2023. However, swift action could save many lives. Urgent, massive action is needed to scale up the aid on which the lives of millions depend and to resolutely address the root causes of this crisis with long-term commitments.
The International Federation and its members – Red Cross and Red Crescent teams present in virtually every corner of the world – bring aid to isolated communities. Cash is distributed to families for food, medical care and other urgent needs. In Nigeria, Red Cross volunteers first ensure the nutrition of pregnant or breastfeeding women, on whom the health of unborn or already born children depends. In Madagascar, volunteers are rehabilitating land and water resources by fighting erosion, constructing water points, and focusing on irrigation, as well as other traditional means of control. hunger such as nutritional surveillance.
Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, said: “Conflict is a major cause of hunger. Violence prevents farmers from sowing and harvesting. Sanctions and blockades impede food deliveries to the most vulnerable. My wish is to see resilience embedded in humanitarian action, so that people suffer less when violence and climate change disrupt their lives. It will not be enough to string together band-aid solutions in the years to come. »
This year, the ICRC has helped nearly one million people in southern and central Somalia buy food for a month by distributing cash to more than 150,000 households. A similar program in Nigeria provided relief to 675,000 people, while 250,000 people received climate-appropriate inputs to enable them to get agricultural production back on track. The ICRC is working to build resilience through seeds, tools and livestock care so people can better absorb repeated shocks. And its medical teams run stabilization centers in countries like Somalia, where children receive specialized care and nutrition.
Around the world, populations are struggling with the greatest difficulties. Here is a brief overview of some of the distressed regions:
In sub-Saharan Africa: One out of three children under five suffers from chronic malnutrition and rickets, while two out of five women of childbearing age are anemic due to poor diet. The majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.90 a day.
In Afghanistan : Thirty years of armed conflict, combined with a collapsing economy that reduces job opportunities and a massive banking crisis, are having devastating effects on the purchasing power of Afghan families. More than half of the country’s population – 24 million – needs help. The International Red Cross and Crescent Movement–Rouge welcomes any measure to alleviate the effects of economic sanctions. But, given the gravity of the humanitarian crisis, it is also necessary to provide long-term solutions, in particular to ensure that projects and investments by States and development agencies in essential infrastructures resume.
In Pakistan : The recent floods have caused losses estimated at 12 billion dollars. If food insecurity, which affected 43% of the population, was alarming before this latest disaster, we can now expect a significant increase in the population threatened by famine. Some 78,000 square kilometers of crops are under water. Around 65% of the country’s food base – crops such as rice and wheat – have been destroyed and the number of livestock killed is estimated at over 733,000. The floods will also adversely affect food supplies of the neighboring country, Afghanistan.
In Somalia : The number of malnourished children in need of care has increased fivefold. Last month, Bay Regional Hospital in Baidoa admitted 466 children, up from 82 in August 2021. Hospitalized children die if they do not receive the specialized nutrition they need.
In Syria : Rates of food insecurity have climbed by more than 50% since 2019. Today, two-thirds of Syria’s population – or 12.4 out of 18 million – cannot meet their daily food needs. The combined effects of more than ten years of conflict and sanctions have reduced the purchasing power of the population to nothing. Food prices have quintupled over the past two years.
In Yemen : Most Yemenis have to make do with one meal a day. Last year, food insecurity affected 53% of the Yemeni population. This year, this percentage has increased to 63%, which represents some 19 million people. Aid actors have been forced to reduce their food assistance due to lack of funds. As a result, some 5 million people now receive less than half of what they would need to meet their daily nutritional needs.
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