The United Nations (U.N) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has warned that there is a risk of famine and widespread food insecurity in Congo, northeast Nigeria and South Sudan as well as Yemen, in the Middle East — and the lives of millions of people are in danger.
In a note to Security Council members, the U.N. chief said the four countries rank “among the largest food crises in the world,” according to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises and recent food security analyses.
“Action is needed now,” Guterres said. “Having endured years of armed conflict and related violence, the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, northeast Nigeria and South Sudan are again facing the spectre of heightened food insecurity and potentially famine.
“The situation varies from country to country, but civilians are being killed, injured and displaced; livelihoods are destroyed; and availability of and access to food disrupted, amid growing fragility.”U.N Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres
He said food insecurity in conflict-affected countries “is now further exacerbated by natural disasters, economic shocks and public health crises, all compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
U.N. humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock added that the economic fallout from the pandemic including lock downs, border closures and restrictions on movement have all had “a big effect on food security and agricultural productivity.”
And extremists have taken the opportunity “to make hay out of all this,” he said.
“Everybody is very preoccupied by COVID and the virus,” Lowcock said. But “it is not the virus that’s creating most of the carnage. It is other things, and we need to focus on the things that will really cause the biggest loss of life.”
Lowcock said many of those things are consequences of COVID-19, the economic contraction, the declining availability of basic public services, “the insecurity into which extremist groups are occupying themselves.”
He stated that, a lot of effort has gone into things like providing personal protective equipment, public information campaigns on the virus, water and sanitation campaigns, “all of which are good things.”
“But if you do those at the expense of basic humanitarian needs in these badly affected places, what you end up with is not a reduction in loss of life but an increase in loss of life,” Lowcock said.
According to the secretary-general’s note, escalating violence in volatile eastern Congo “is again driving disastrous levels of food insecurity and hunger,” and the latest analysis “indicates that over 21 million people are in crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity.”
With only 22% of the U.N. humanitarian appeal currently funded, Guterres said, “core programs will need to be reduced or suspended.”
In northeast Nigeria’s Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, he said, “alarming levels of food insecurity and hunger have arisen largely as a result of the actions” of extremists affiliated with armed groups.
In South Sudan’s Jonglei and Greater Pibor administrative area, Guterres said the situation deteriorated rapidly in the first half of 2020, “fueled by escalating violence and insecurity,” Guterres said.
Fighting has been accompanied by widespread attacks on agricultural and pastoral land and the looting of livestock and food, leaving more that 1.4 million people in the area “facing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity, he said. In addition, at least 350,000 children suffer from severe or moderate acute malnutrition.”