Famine - 2017
The United Nations estimated more than 17 million people faced hunger in nine countries. Somalia faced its second famine in less than six years, South Sudan has declared some parts of the country in famine, and Kenya's government declared the drought there a national disaster. More than 5.5 million people are going to bed hungry in Ethiopia alone.
“Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan. Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are already facing a tragedy; we must avoid it becoming a catastrophe," said the Secretary-General, stressing: “This is preventable if the international community takes decisive action."
Briefing the press at UN Headquarters in New York alongside the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Helen Clark, and by video conference, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, Guterres said the UN needs at least $4.4 billion by the end of March 2017 to avert a catastrophe.
“Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far – around two cents for every dollar needed. We are at the beginning of the year, but these numbers are very worrying," he said: “The lives of millions of people depend on our collective ability to act. In our world of plenty, there is no excuse for inaction or indifference."
In South Sudan, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners aim to assist 5.8 million people this year; in Somalia, 5.5 million people and in Yemen 8.3 million. In north-east Nigeria, humanitarians are reaching more than two million people with food assistance.
These four crises are very different, but are all preventable. “They all stem from conflict, which we must do much more to prevent and resolve," he said, urging all members of the international community to step up and do whatever is in their power, whether that is mobilizing support, exerting political pressure on parties to conflict, or funding humanitarian operations. “Saving lives is the first priority, but we are also looking to build longer-term resilience to shocks," Mr. Guterres said, noting that UNDP Administrator and the Emergency Relief Coordinator will set up a steering committee to link the UN Development Group and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for humanitarian assistance to ensure a coordinated long-term approach.
Clark noted that the way forward on the four crises would very much reflect the “new way of working" among relief and development agencies agreed by the 2016 UN World Humanitarian Summit, which stressed that “the priority is saving lives and part of saving lives is building resilience for the future." For her part, Cousin said that in each of these four countries, “the plans are in place and the people are prepared to perform the work that is necessary. What we need is the resources and the access."
“Acting now, before we reach the height of the lean season in these countries will ensure our ability to provide the support that is necessary to avoid what we all see on the horizon, which is a famine in each one of these countries if we fail to act," she stated. Carla Mucavi, the Director of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office in New York, and Justin Forsyth, the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), also attended the briefing.
U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien, who just returned from field missions to the affected countries, told Security Council members 10 March 2017 that the United Nations faced its largest humanitarian crisis since the organization's creation.
- About two-thirds of the population (more than 18 million people) in Yemen needed assistance, including more than seven million severely food insecure, and the fighting continued to worsen the crisis. “I continue to reiterate the same message to all: only a political solution will ultimately end human suffering and bring stability to the region," UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien 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."
- In South Sudan, where a famine was recently declared, more than 7.5 million people are in need of assistance, including some 3.4 million displaced. The figure rose by 1.4 million since last year. “The famine in the country is man-made. "Aid workers have been killed, humanitarian compounds and supplies have been attacked, looted and occupied by armed actors," O'Brien noted. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine – as are those not intervening to make the violence stop," stressed O’Brien, calling on the South Sudanese authorities to translate their assurances of unconditional access into “action on the ground."
- Similarly, more than half the population of Somalia (6.2 million people) is need aid, 2.9 million of whom require immediate assistance. Extremely worrying is that more than one million children under the age of five are at the risk of acute malnourishment.
- Concerning Kenya, O'Brien mentioned that more than 2.7 million people were food insecure, and that this number could reach four million by April 2017. “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," he informed.
- Three states in northeastern Nigeria — Borno, Adamawa and Yobe — are severely food insecure because of violence and instability stoked by Boko Haram terrorists. More than 8.5 million people in those three areas need aid. More than $1 billion is needed to meet critical needs in the northeast.
The El Niño-driven crisis increased the malnutrition rates of rural children, and driven up food prices for urban residents. The Super El Nino of 2015 to 2016 brought droughts and floods around the world, yet it was its sister La Nina [which subsided in February 2017] that was fuelling drought and hunger in East Africa in 2017. Events such as the drought in East Africa, are becoming more severe, less predictable and are happening more often. Those three factors put everyone in the path of these climatic events at higher risk.
Warm, wet air rises over the western Pacific, causing rain over Southeast Asia. On the other side of the cycle, dry air descends over East Africa. That is why not much rain falls in Africa even in normal years. But when the western Pacific is warmer, it pushes the whole system harder: more rain over Southeast Asia, and more dry air descending on East Africa. More dry air means more drought.
The warming over the western Pacific appears to be pretty much directly related to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Research shows that in the past, a warmer ocean meant a drier East Africa. But it is not entirely clear whether the current drying trend will continue. But the global climate models are the exact opposite of what it seen in East Africa. The models predict it should be getting wetter. But the models may be flawed in this area. The short term is more clear. The western Pacific is still warmer than average. Which means the forecast is for a third season of disappointing rains.