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UN food chief warns of imminent famine in Africa if global crisis is left unchecked

The head of the World Food Program has warned that sanctions against Russia could make things worse and urged countries to follow Canada’s lead in trying to avert a looming famine in East Africa.

The number of people in dire need of food has quadrupled since 2017, said David Beasley, an American who heads the United Nations agency.

“The world is in a very fragile state. In my opinion, it doesn’t take any longer,” he said in an interview.

“What if there’s a big earthquake or a volcano or something in the next six months? Holy mackerel, the fire trucks are all out.”

His biggest concern is the Horn of Africa, which stretches across Somalia and much of Ethiopia and Kenya. The past five consecutive growing seasons have all been hit by drought, and armed conflict has led some militias to withhold access to food.

Beasley, who visited the area last month, was surprised to learn that food aid is now reaching farmers and ranchers, he said. There were, but rarely needed actual food.

“The number of dead animals I saw was amazing,” he said. “The Horn of Africa is a picture-perfect scenario for catastrophe.”

Beasley started working in March 2017, overseeing organizations that provide everything from school meals to agricultural machinery to the world’s poorest.

At that time, 80 million people were severely food insecure. That is, they are either malnourished or have cut back on their subsistence necessities.

That number had increased to 135 million by early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, due to war and climate change.

At the beginning of the year, 276 million people were in need. This is partly due to shocks in his chain of supplies and the drought in Afghanistan, where the Taliban takeover has plunged the country into economic crisis.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the number of people in urgent need of assistance has reached an unprecedented 345 million.

The invasion severely reduced grain exports from Europe’s breadbasket and sent oil prices skyrocketing. Beasley says this costs his organization $75 million more each month.

“Currently, our operations have to take food from hungry children and give it to starving children due to lack of funding,” he said during a visit to Ottawa on Tuesday. .

Food prices have fallen this year as grain began to slowly ship out of Ukraine’s main port, Odessa, but are still at their highest levels in a decade.

Western sanctions against Russia include exemptions for certain types of food and fertilizers, but Beasley said world powers will have to compromise further. If areas not facing climate problems do not receive enough fertilizer, they will not be able to increase production and millions of people will die.

“Whether you love Russia or hate it, you have to get these manures out,” he said.

“It is very likely that the current food price problem will become a food availability problem in 2023, and that is my serious concern.”

Beasley said the Canadian government, under Liberal and Conservative leadership, is, like the United States, Germany and France, a “loud voice for global food security.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named global food security a priority when he attended the United Nations General Assembly last week, but the New York meeting was dominated by news that Russia was stepping up its war on Ukraine.

Canada has long been among the top five donors to the World Food Programme. Ottawa pledged $360 million this year, securing future funding for officials to plan ahead.

it’s huge. It’s a godsend. But other countries, like the Gulf States, have to step up,” he said.

“I’m taking the leap and trying to get world leaders to realize that everyone has to get involved.”

Beasley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said people should see development aid as a hedge against a more costly crisis.

He said challenges such as COVID-19 and inflation have led developed countries to question the virtue of helping foreigners, but not intervening would lead to conflict and mass migration, making it more difficult for the West to do. He argued that it would only cost more.

“I’ve seen it first hand. If you don’t go out there and help people, it will cost you a thousand times more.”

— Dylan Robertson, Canadian Press

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UN food chief warns of imminent famine in Africa if global crisis is left unchecked

Source link UN food chief warns of imminent famine in Africa if global crisis is left unchecked

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