Somalia + 6 more

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths remarks for The Road to UN General Assembly: Preventing Famine and Fighting Food Insecurity


As delivered

We are here today because we all face the grim truth that we have just been hearing: The fight against global hunger. Hunger is winning in far too many places.

This year, up to 205 million people will face crisis, or worse levels of hunger in 45 countries and territories according to the latest report from the Global Network Against Food Crises, which marks an ominous record in the report’s history.

Over 880,000 people are already experiencing starvation or death in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, as we have just heard of, and Yemen. And this is 10 times more people than five years ago.

Last week I visited Somalia, and the degree of suffering I witnessed shocked me to the core.
Conditions in Somalia were reminiscent to the 2010/2011 famine.

The findings of the report [of the Famine Review Committee] could not have been any clearer and we discussed it in Mogadishu. Without a huge scale up, without an almost impossible scale up and implementation, famine will occur. And that is the report’s words: famine will occur in two areas in the Bay region between October and December. This is the third time in 10 years, Somalia has faced the risk or indeed the reality of famine.

Children and mothers are most impacted by famine or famine-like conditions. I saw this firsthand visiting hospital in Baidoa and then Banadir, Mogadishu some 10 days ago from now.

And tragically, one of the babies that I visited died the day after our visit. In Somalia, more than 400,000 children are estimated to live in these areas, the ones that will have famine. Their lives are at risk now and for months to come.

I cannot emphasize how urgently we need that scaling up not only in Somalia, but also in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Yemen, and beyond to keep famine at bay. There is no time to lose. We have lost too much time, indeed.

Humanitarian organizations have been mobilizing resources and scaling up. I saw this firsthand.

These efforts will save lives, probably are and will reduce some suffering, but it is not enough.

Donors have been generous, some more than others. But given the sheer scale of the colliding crises we need a lot more. And we need it now.

Indeed, in Somalia alone, in these areas that are likely to have famine, we need a billion dollars.

And we will be hopefully shaking the trees in the next few weeks here in New York. The threat of famine needs to spur all of us into action. And that is what we saw most strikingly in 2016/17.

Sarah spoke of the need to learn lessons. Well, we have learned lessons. But what we have not done is applying them. We had upfront funding in 2016/17, which, as you know, made so much a difference. We were not able to do that in Somalia this year, except for from one donor. The clock is ticking and time is running out.

Getting aid to rural communities before they are forced to abandon their homes in search of food, is critical, before they are forced to sell their livestock. And before they are forced to leave a way of life behind.

We appeal to donors to provide that immediate, flexible funding to enable agencies to scale up and prevent more deaths, protect livelihoods to which I have just referred and to avert what is likely to happen.

The response to the hunger crisis must go far beyond hunger. And this was very clear to us and the agencies. For example, in Somalia, they have decided on focus on four priority areas, and the need to deliver on all four at once. It needs to include food, obviously, nutrition, certainly, health care and water supply and sanitation for the diseases that come with the food insecurity.

The assistance must go to national and international NGOs. We are not hitting the targets set out by the Grand Bargain in these countries. Our local partners are still the ones who remain at the frontline. And they continue to remind us, and they have done in Pakistan this week and in Somalia last week, of our promises and our pledges that have not been turned into reality.

We need, again, more investment in sustainable solutions, building the resilience of communities, because their ways of life are in such danger. And what we have not yet been able to do, and in Somalia, I am told we have not yet seen a penny of climate adaptation funding going into what is so obviously needed for the government, in terms of investment in resilience.

And having come back from Pakistan, where I was in the Secretary-General's delegation, the message he was making to all those he met there, was the need for climate funding to what he called climate carnage.

The investment beyond the humanitarian needs to span climate adaptation and livelihoods training to enable communities to build their new lives, and to help governments local and national and international to invest in a future and not just in the present.

The G7 [Global Alliance] and the G20 have made very important commitments. We now need to see those commitments turned into effective action on the ground. And I congratulate Comfort and Sarah and the panel for bringing this meeting together first, in this week of the lead up to the General Assembly. This should be should be the theme, the tragic theme of this year's many, many meetings so I thank you very much.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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