By Cecilia Ologunagba
The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that famine was already present in four countries but with millions more people are at risk, underscoring the need for urgent funding and humanitarian access to reach those in need.
Analysis by the UN agency on Tuesday revealed that 41 million people in 43 countries were teetering on the very edge of famine, up from 27 million two years ago.
“I am heartbroken at what we’re facing in 2021. We now have four countries where famine-like conditions are present,” WFP chief David Beasley told its Executive Board on Monday, according to a press release.
He described the situation as “just tragic”, because “these are real people with real names.”
WFP said 584,000 people were already experiencing famine-like conditions in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen.
“Nigeria and Burkina Faso are also of particular concern as they have pockets where famine-like conditions are present.
“In Somalia in 2011, 260,000 people died of hunger, and by the time the famine was actually declared half of that number had already died. We can’t debate the numbers of deaths when people need our help now,” Beasley said.
In addition, WFP said hunger had risen due to conflict, climate change and economic shocks.
“However, soaring prices for basic foods have also compounded the situation, with the global cost of maize rising almost 90 per cent year-on-year, for example.
“In many countries, currency depreciation is also a factor. This has driven prices even higher, stoking food insecurity in places such as Lebanon, Nigeria, Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe,’’ the agency added.
WFP is targeting 139 million people in its biggest operation ever, this year, and with sufficient funding and access, the agency said it can provide them with lifesaving food and nutritional assistance.
Beasley underlined the urgent need for support, saying, “I want to emphasise just how bad it is out there.
“Today, 41 million people are literally knocking on famine’s door. The price tag to reach them is about $6 billion. We need funding and we need it now,” he said. (NAN)