World leaders have been urged step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, during the 43rd G7 summit last month.
Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima observed, “political failure has led to these crises, and political leadership is needed to resolve them… the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch.”
In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.
After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.
In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.
“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she offered.
But these widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders. According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.
Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided $1.7 billion, just under 60 per cent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 per cent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.
In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition, which, Oxfam notes, has not happened.
Further, there is concern that some actions of the G77 nations actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.
For instance, the US government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 per cent decrease in funding for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid programme, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.
“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life… now clear warnings have again been issued,” a statement by Oxfam notes.