Threat of four famines in 2017 “a catastrophic betrayal of our common humanity”

Threat of four famines in 2017 “a catastrophic betrayal of our common humanity”

Oxfam calls for immediate humanitarian and political action


Friday 24 February 2017 

The world stands on the brink of an unprecedented four famines in 2017 due to a catastrophic failure of the global community to uphold its obligations to the most vulnerable of people, Oxfam has said. 

The aid agency is calling on the international community including Ireland to take immediate action to help as many as 20 million people now at risk of starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. 


After months of early warnings, famine was declared this week in parts of South Sudan. In northern Nigeria it is likely that some 400,000 people living in areas cut off from aid are already suffering famine. Both Yemen and Somalia stand on the brink. The primary driver of these crises is conflict, though in Somalia it is drought. 

Donor countries have failed to adequately support efforts to resolve these conflicts and, in Yemen, are actually fuelling the conflict through arms sales. There is now urgent humanitarian need, as well as a moral obligation, to meet the $4.4 billion needed for the aid response for these crises at the required scale.

Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Famine does not arrive suddenly or unexpectedly. It comes after months of procrastination and ignored warnings. It is a slow agonising process, driven by callous national politics and international indifference. It is the ultimate betrayal of our common humanity. 

“The response by many donors to ever bigger UN appeals for humanitarian funding have fallen well below what is required and short-changed the aid effort to save people’s lives. Without urgent action by the international community, these crises will only deepen in the coming months. This cannot continue. Governments need to act now to fully fund the aid effort and Ireland, with our own experience of famine, is uniquely positioned to lead an urgent call to action at UN and EU levels. 


“The famine already gripping parts of South Sudan will spread across the country if not more is done. Famine may be imminent in Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria but it is not yet inevitable. If we act collectively now with a massive injection of aid, backed with diplomatic clout driven by the imperative to save lives, we can prevent a catastrophic loss of life. As a hunger crisis unfolds, malnutrition and mortality rates rise exponentially, rather than steadily. Without an urgent injection of financial support, an already stretched international humanitarian system will not be able to cope and many more people will die.”


Oxfam is calling for the rapid and increased release of humanitarian funding to save lives and prevent these crises exacerbating further. It also urging for increased diplomatic efforts to convene ceasefires, enable safe passage by those fleeing insecurity and secure access by aid agencies to those in need of assistance.


In Somalia, 2.9 million people face acute food security ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ levels. This could tip into famine if the April-June rains fail, their ability to buy food declines and people do not receive humanitarian support. 

In Nigeria, over 5 million people are in food crisis, and this is projected to reach 5.7 million by June 2017. There is a strong likelihood that at least 400,000 people could already be experiencing famine-like conditions and that this could rise to up to 800,000 over the course of 2017 if humanitarian assistance cannot be delivered.  

In South Sudan, 100,000 people are facing starvation now and a further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine in Unity State. 

In Yemen, over 7 million people are just one step away from famine, and an extra 10 million people are severely hungry. This is largest hunger emergency in the world. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation is reporting that wheat stocks for the country will run out in April.   

Oxfam is already helping over a million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 200,000 in Nigeria and an assessment mission has just returned from northern Somalia where it plans to begin a response to the drought. 

Oxfam Ireland has a hunger crisis appeal at www.oxfamireland.org/hunger 

ENDS


Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, 083 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org