Sunday April 17, 2022
GENEVA — The United Nations said Thursday it has released
$100 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to help millions facing
hunger in South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.
Millions in these seven countries cannot feed themselves and
their families because of armed conflict, drought, and economic turmoil made
worse by COVID-19.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
also said the spillover effects of the war in Ukraine threaten to drive
millions of people even closer to famine.
OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told VOA Yemen, South Sudan, and
Somalia are already in what the United Nations calls a Phase 5 emergency –
catastrophic hunger or famine.
“Other countries—Nigeria, Sudan, and Kenya for
example—Ethiopia as well—we have millions of people who are just one step away
from this catastrophic phase,” he said. “And we have to avoid that they end up
in that phase because that is where people literally die from starvation and
disease on our watch. If we have to avoid that, we need to act now.”
Ukraine and Russia are known as the “breadbasket of the
world,” supplying nearly a third of the world’s wheat and barley exports. The
World Food Program said the war in Ukraine will increase global hunger.
It said the conflict is disrupting food and energy markets
and driving food prices beyond consumers’ reach.
The United Nations launched appeals for each of the seven
countries months ago for global total of $43 billion. Laerke said only 6.5% of
this amount has been funded. He said the U.N. knows the $100 million it has
made available for emergency relief will not solve the problems facing these
“But it does plug a hole. It does cover a gap that is
immediate, that is urgent, and that is absolutely necessary if we want to save
lives in these countries,” he said. “And that is the function of Central
Emergency Response Fund. It is kind of a provider of last resort.”
Laerke added that U.N. agencies hope donors will understand
the situation facing these countries and support their humanitarian operations.
If not, he said, drastic cuts will have to be made in critical projects.