UK Public Helps Raise $90M for Famine Relief as 20M Lives Are at Stake
“Our message to the world is clear – we must act now to help innocent people who are starving."
Last March, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria would face starvation in three to four months if the world didn’t respond.
The United Kingdom has answered that call.
The £50 million (US $62 million) raised for east Africa will provide food, water, and medical care for 7 million people during the next two years, according to Saleh Saeed, chief executive of DEC. The remaining £22 million will go to Yemen.
In February, International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced the UK will provide £100 million (US$124 million) for relief efforts in Somalia through 2018, and another £100 million for South Sudan. The scale-up in international aid also aims to feed more than 1 million people in Nigeria, and deliver life-saving aid to another 1 million people in Yemen.
As part of the national fundraising effort, the UK government matched the first £5 million donated by the public to the DEC’s East Africa Crisis Appeal.
“In times of crisis, the world looks to Britain not just for our work on the ground, but also for our leadership internationally,” Patel said. “While we step up our support for emergency food, water, and lifesaving care to those in need, our message to the world is clear – we must act now to help innocent people who are starving to death.”
The United Nations (UN) officially declared famine in South Sudan, as more than 1 million people in the war-torn nation face starvation and more than 5.5 million people are expected to be food insecure by July.
The UN requested US$1.6 billion to respond to famine in South Sudan. At the time of this writing, the organization has received US$458.7 million.
Somalia has been hit by two famines in the last 25 years and is on the brink of a third. More than 6 million people require urgent humanitarian aid, including more than 363,000 children who are acutely malnourished.
At the time of this writing, the UN has received US$526.5 million for its 2017 Somalia response plan, just 9.1% of the required funding.
In Yemen, 6.8 million people are on the brink of outright famine while 17 million are at “emergency” or “crisis” levels of food insecurity, according to the UN. The country has been ravaged by civil war since 2015.
In February, the UN requested US$2.1 billion for its Yemen response plan which will provide food, water, sanitation, and education to 12 million people. The plan has received US$247.5 million in funding, up to this point.
In the Boko Haram-controlled northeast region of Nigeria, 120,000 people are at risk of famine, but the response plan for the nation has received just US$244 million out of the US$1.1 billion requested.
Even if funding goals for each nation are met, incessant internal conflict will remain a roadblock in finding a long-term solution to these food crises.
“No amount of aid money will overcome political obstructionism and a failure to abide by the norms of warfare,” said Dominick Stillhart, ICRC director of operations, at a press conference in March. “Ultimately, in these countries, famine is a by-product. The root cause is the presence of long term, intractable conflict. It’s the conflict that renders agricultural land unusable, that forces people to flee their homes, and that destroys hospitals and other vital services.”
In Yemen, for instance, Houthi groups have agreed to temporary ceasefires to allow delivery of humanitarian aid, but have repeatedly seized humanitarian aid ships and re-sold their cargo, according to Gulf News.
Conflict has also hindered aid effort in Somalia as attacks from the militant group al-Shabaab have added to political instability. Last Month, Malaysia sent soldiers along with relief materials to Somalia to ensure safe delivery.
Despite these challenges, the world is responding to the famine crisis. Canada has pledged CAN$120 million (US$90 million) to relief efforts. On an individual level, too, people are doing what they can to help others, even if they live on the opposite side of the planet.
The ICRC warned the world had four months, maximum, to alleviate food crises in Africa and Yemen before millions would die. One month later, the response has been inspiring, thanks to global leadership from nations like the UK.
But there’s more to do. Let’s keep it going.