Rich Countries Skimp on Famine Relief

A U.N. pledging event fell far short of the $7 billion sought for the Horn of Africa where more than 23.5 million people are currently suffering from hunger brought on by one of the worst droughts in recent history.

Two boys stand by dead carcasses in the village of Gabi’as in Somalia, January 2022. (UNICEF Ethiopia/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

A pledging event convened by the United Nations last week fell far short of the $7 billion that was called for to aid countries in the Horn of Africa, where more than 23.5 million people are currently suffering from hunger brought on by one of the worst droughts in recent history.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said as he announced the pledge drive that “action will make all the difference” to avert a catastrophic famine in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, where 43 million people have faced five consecutive rainy seasons which brought vastly insufficient rain.

The High-Level Pledging Event brought in only $2.4 billion, with the United States making the largest donation — an additional $524 million, making its total contribution to humanitarian efforts in the region $1.4 billion this year. By contrast, the country’s military budget for the current fiscal year — which includes funding for military activity in Somalia — is $858 billion.

Guterres called the failed pledging event “unacceptable.”

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on May 23. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

Without an immediate injection of more aid, he said, “emergency operations will grind to a halt, and people will die.”

“We must act now to prevent crisis from turning into catastrophe,” Guterres said. “Let us act together now — with greater urgency and far greater support.”

The U.N. chief said in a statement that on a recent trip to the Horn of Africa, he met families who have been driven from their homes in Northern Kenya “in search of water, food, and incomes” as the ongoing drought has left them with “parched landscapes and perished livestock.”

As scientists at the World Weather Attribution wrote in a report in April, the five consecutive failed rainy seasons in East Africa would not have occurred without the climate emergency and continued fossil fuel emissions, 92 percent of which come from the Global North. 

Guterres said the Horn of Africa has become “the epicenter of one of the world’s worst climate emergencies.”

“People in the Horn of Africa are paying an unconscionable price for a climate crisis they did nothing to cause,” said Guterres. “We owe them solidarity. We owe them assistance. And we owe them a measure of hope for the future. This means immediate action to secure their survival. And it means sustained action to help communities across the Horn adapt and build resilience to climate change.”

Beda’as kebele, Denan woreda district, Shebele zone Somali region, Jan. 18, 2022. (UNICEF/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The international humanitarian group Oxfam said it was “deeply disappointed” by the failure of wealthy countries to contribute enough money to avert famine in the region, noting that much of the funding included in the $2.4 billion was previously pledged.

“This was a vital moment for rich donors to step up and show their commitment to saving lives,” said Fati N’Zi Hassane, director of Oxfam in Africa. “They have failed millions of people caught up in this vicious spiral of hunger, displacement, and insecurity.”

“One person is likely to die of hunger every 28 seconds between now and July across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan alone — the highest on record,” said Hassane. “To wait for a fully declared famine before donors act decisively is both complicit and immoral.” 

“We cannot continue drip-feeding aid to keep the worst of the crisis at bay while each day millions are being pushed further to starvation,” she added. “What East Africa urgently needs is a drastic global collective effort not only to save lives now but to scale up programs that help people become more resilient to shocks like climate change and food price inflation.”

The World Food Program noted on Wednesday that a basket of food in the Horn of Africa costs 40 percent more than it did a year ago.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the pledges that were made last week will help humanitarian agencies to sustain supplies of food, water, healthcare, and nutrition services, but said “additional resources are urgently required to prevent a return to the worst-case scenario.”

“We must persist in pushing for stepped-up investments,” said U.N. Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya, “especially to bolster the resilience of people already bearing the brunt of climate change.”

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

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7 comments for “Rich Countries Skimp on Famine Relief

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    June 3, 2023 at 11:59

    SHAME!!! on the entire Western WHITE race… Exploiting/stealing other races’ natural resources to the point of leaving behind misery, famine, illness, destroyed environment…and not having an ounce of consideration when these people are in dire need – a situation actually CAUSED by the West. SHAME!!!

  2. June 1, 2023 at 09:45

    Killing Russians is far more important to the “West” than feeding starving African children. Something for those in the African American community who gave us Mr. Biden as president to consider as they remain enslaved in the Democratic Party.

  3. Valerie
    June 1, 2023 at 09:13

    The UK has reduced their foreign aid some time ago:

    “The government is to give billions of pounds less in foreign aid to international organisations such as the United Nations.
    Instead, the Foreign Office will spend the aid money on individual projects and countries that are UK priorities.
    The change is part of a new strategy designed to ensure aid spending does more to promote foreign policy.
    Aid charities criticised the strategy for focusing more on boosting UK trade than ending extreme poverty.”
    16th May 2022

  4. J Anthony
    June 1, 2023 at 06:16

    It’s because they DON”T GIVE A F***. That ought to be obvious. Which in turn ought to confirm what we already know about the people running things, they are murderous sociopaths whose priorities are all out of whack.

  5. Sam F
    May 31, 2023 at 17:29

    The US total contribution this year of $1.4 billion is about $10 per average household, versus over $2000 for military activity. The US has since WWII given less than $1 per year per capita to the world’s poorest, whom it might easily have rescued in that time from poverty, ignorance, malnutrition, and disease. It is not capable of benevolence, only advertising, theft, and bribery scams. Its people have no moral foundation, and equate personal money with virtue, despite firmly believing in scams. The US government is a plague upon humanity and upon the US, a fake in every branch and aspect at every level.

    • Valerie
      June 1, 2023 at 10:45

      This has been going on for decades, as you say Sam. I remember as a child being told by my parents to eat everything on my plate, because there were children starving in Africa. The US and europe could have done a lot more.

  6. Redd Granger
    May 31, 2023 at 14:04

    I can just hear Gomer Pyle’s voice saying “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

    Biden is not willing to take money away from the Pentagon, Wall Street, or rich people in general to fight hunger in his own country. Millions of people are being cut from food stamps. Domestic spending is ‘frozen’ in a time of rampant inflation. Now he’s agreeing to the long-time far-right agenda of making people who need assistance vulnerable to predator capitalists who get state-supplied, lawfully forced labor, so they treat the employees like turds stuck to their leather boots and figure they’ll get new ones supplied by the state when these quit or die. Joe Biden’s America.

    And people expect Biden to give money to starving people overseas?

    If its not money for tanks, bombs, missiles, police, prisons, spies, socialism for corporations, bailouts for the rich, Biden does not want to hear about it.

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