People in four food insecurity “hotspots” inside Burkina Faso, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, need help urgently to avoid sliding into famine, UN humanitarians said on Friday.
“We are concerned that they may be facing an elevated risk of famine if the situation would further deteriorate over the coming months”, said Claudia Ah Poe, senior food security adviser at the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking at a press conference at UN Geneva.
In a joint alert with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFP also warned that 16 other countries also face a “major (food) emergency – or series of emergencies” in the next three to six months.
The drivers of these humanitarian crises include long-running conflict and a lack of humanitarian access to communities in need; climate extremes and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, they said in a new report on food insecurity hotspots.
At-risk nations include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where 22 million people are acutely food insecure, the highest number ever registered for a single country – Ethiopia, Haiti and Venezuela.
“These countries already had significant acute food insecurity levels in 2020…and are now facing a risk of a further rapid deterioration over the next months”, said WFP’s Ah Poe.
Underscoring the level of need in the three African countries found to be among the four most at risk of famine, WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri highlighted how people’s dire situation was linked to an insurgency in northern Burkina Faso and northeastern Nigeria.
Years of conflict had also created chronic vulnerability in South Sudan, made worse by this year’s catastrophic flooding Mr. Phiri added. “People have lost assets, people have lost their capability to cope with any shocks. We had …unprecedented floods this year; floodwaters were submerging whole towns, people are struggling, the harvest that was just about to come in.”
Further data from March to September has also shown that while in many countries COVID-19-related restrictions were progressively lifted, allowing economic activity to resume, food insecurity has worsened in 27 countries, with up to 104.6 million people in need.
In 2019, the number of people facing similar levels of food insecurity in these 27 countries was 97.6 million, according to WFP.
“In those 27 countries, the number of people that are already facing acute food insecurity are (sic) more than 100 million already. Analysis obviously is continuously ongoing so we except this number to increase much more,” said WFP’s Ah Poe. “And earlier on this year, we… had estimated in the countries where we are operating – which is around 80 countries – an additional 121 million people would be at risk of falling into food insecurity.”
Speaking via video link from Rome, FAO senior food crises analyst, Luca Russo, recalled that the main objective of the alert was to avert a humanitarian catastrophe by identifying the many factors that contribute to famine, and which specific actions would help vulnerable communities most.
In 2011, famine was declared in southern Somalia in July, but most people had already died by May, he said.
“The moment you declare a famine it is already too late to act, in the sense that we saw this in the past, with Somalia when the famine was declared, already 260,000 people had died…so we want to raise an early warning before the famine occurs.”
Echoing that message, FAO’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience, Dominique Burgeon, called for urgent action from the international community.
“We are deeply concerned about the combined impact of several crises which are eroding people’s ability to produce and access food, leaving them more and more at risk of the most extreme hunger”, he said. “We need access to these populations to ensure they have food and the means to produce food and improve their livelihoods to prevent a worst-case scenario.”
Famine risk ‘in all four parts of the world’
WFP Director of Emergencies Margot van der Velden, also cautioned that the world is at a “catastrophic turning point”, with the risk of famine in four different parts of the world at the same time. “When we declare a famine, it means many lives have already been lost. If we wait to find that out for sure, people are already dead,” she said.
Famine is defined as the most severe type of hunger, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) measure, which humanitarians use to gauge food security levels on a scale of one to five.
A declaration of famine – IPC 5 – only refers to areas where “at least one in five households has or is most likely to have an extreme deprivation of food”, as per the IPC definition, and where “significant mortality, directly attributable to outright starvation or to the interaction of malnutrition and disease, is occurring or will be occurring”.
Kenya Receives $750 million Boost for COVID-19 Recovery Efforts
To reinforce Kenya’s resilient, inclusive and green economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the World Bank approved $750 million in development policy financing to support policy reforms that will strengthen transparency and accountability in public procurement and promote efficient public investment spending.
This development policy operation supports measures to improve medium-term fiscal and debt sustainability through greater transparency and efficiency in government spending, building on ongoing World Bank support to enhance public finance management systems. The operation provides for the establishment of an electronic procurement platform for the public sector that seeks to make government purchases of goods and services transparent. This will help increase accountability in public spending and reduce opportunities for corruption. The support also strengthens public investment management by seeking cost-savings and applying rigorous selection and monitoring and evaluation criteria to all projects. Both measures are expected to yield fiscal savings of up to $2.6 billion.
“The operation prioritizes reforms in hard hit sectors, such as healthcare, education, and energy, which have been made urgent by the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “In recognition of the severity of the crisis and need for a comprehensive response, we are supporting the government’s post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy, which is designed to mitigate the adverse socioeconomic effects of the pandemic and accelerate economic recovery and attain higher and sustained economic growth.”
The policy operation also prioritizes energy sector reforms to improve electricity access and ensure that Kenyans benefit from least-cost, clean energy sources. Further, the new policy framework will help strengthen Kenya Power and Lighting Company’s (KPLC’s) finances with a new competitive pricing regime.
Kenyans will also benefit from better healthcare and disease prevention, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable households, through National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) governance reforms and the establishment of the Kenya Center for Disease Control (KCDC) to strengthen disease prevention, detection, and response. Reforms will further seek to provide Kenyans with more equitable access to higher education, through a performance-based funding method to reduce the imbalances and inefficiencies created by the existing funding model for universities.
“Stabilizing the debt trajectory and reducing high debt costs is a top priority,” said Alex Sienaert, Senior Economist and Task Team Leader, World Bank Kenya. “This policy operation supports measures to reduce the budget deficit over time, such as by making public spending more efficient, whilst minimizing debt costs by helping to meet the government’s current financing requirements on concessional terms.”
DPOs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help to accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have made reforms that improve governance and service delivery, including those covered by this operation for Kenya, even more critical because they create better conditions for Kenya to inclusively and sustainably recover from it. Financing provided by the World Bank is offered on concessional terms, making it significantly lower than commercial loans. The total annual interest and service cost of the Kenya DPO is 3.1%.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.6 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $21 billion over the last three years, with about 61 percent going to Africa.
Risk of COVID-19 surge threatens Africa’s health facilities
Critical health facilities across Africa risk being overwhelmed by surging COVID-19 infections, the UN health agency said on Thursday.
The appeal to the continent’s authorities to boost lifesaving facilities comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that vaccine shipments were at “a near halt”.
“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Our priority is clear – it’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of COVID-19.”
20% uptick in cases
As the continent struggles with vaccine shortages, the care of critically ill COVID-19 patients has lagged behind other parts of the world. While Africa has 2.9 per cent of cases globally, it accounts for 3.7 per cent of deaths.
Weak observance of preventive measures likely contributed to the crisis, along with increased population movement and interaction, and the arrival of winter in southern Africa.
In the last two weeks, the continent has recorded a 20 per cent increase in coronavirus infections, compared to the previous fortnight. “The pandemic is trending upwards in 14 countries and in the past week alone (and) eight countries witnessed an abrupt rise of over 30 per cent in cases,” WHO said in a statement.
Intensive care filling up
South Africa has seen “a sustained increase in cases”, while Uganda reported a 131 per cent week-on-week rise last week “with infection clusters in schools, rising cases among health workers and isolation centres and intensive care units filling up”.
Angola and Namibia have also witnessed a resurgence in cases, WHO said, noting that 48.6 million doses have been received in Africa and 31.4 million doses have been administered in 50 countries on the continent.
Only around two per cent of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, compared with the 24 per cent global figure.
“While many countries outside Africa have now vaccinated their high-priority groups and are able to even consider vaccinating their children, African countries are unable to even follow up with second doses for high-risk groups,” said Dr. Moeti. “I’m urging countries that have reached a significant vaccination coverage to release doses and keep the most vulnerable Africans out of critical care.”
Globally, as of 3 June 2021, there have been 171,222,477 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3,686,142 deaths, reported to WHO. As of 2 June, a total of 1,581,509,628 vaccine doses have been administered.
Mali: Military must ‘scrupulously’ respect human rights and free civilian leaders
A UN independent human rights expert said on Wednesday that Mali’s new military authorities should “scrupulously respect human rights” and release all leaders detained in last week’s coup.
Alioune Tine, independent expert for human rights in Mali, said that contrary to news reports, President Bah N’Daw and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were not freed by the military on 27 May, but instead moved to house arrest.
The development follows Mali’s second coup in less than a year.
The ousted President and Prime Minister were initially held on Monday 24 May at Kati military camp near the capital, Bamako, with five other top civilian and military officials.
Only two of the five officials have been released to date, Mr. Tine said, before endorsing the call of West African bloc ECOWAS for new presidential elections in February 2022.
Last Friday, Mali’s constitutional court declared Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the military coup in August, to be the new interim president.
“I call upon Malian transitional authorities to immediately end the house arrest of these two men and to release three senior military officials from arbitrary detention,” he said.
Restore rule of law
“I call upon all Malian transitional authorities to scrupulously respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to restore the rule of law.”
“Malian authorities must lift the house arrest of these two individuals and allow the remaining detainees to communicate with their families and lawyers and to receive visits”, underscored the UN expert.
He also maintained that Mali must allow human rights officers from the UN mission MINUSMA, as well as representatives of national human rights institutions and organizations, to visit them.
The independent expert said Mali must form an inclusive government to move the country – now suspended from ECOWAS institutions – back to constitutional order and rule of law.
The African Union (AU) has also reportedly suspended the country’s membership.
After two coups in Mali within 10 months, Mr. Tine called for national and international actors to strengthen State institutions and the rule of law to avoid repeated crises and to ensure respect for all human rights.
However, he said the main responsibility lies with Malians themselves.
“I call on political, military and civil society leaders to exercise restraint and to engage in an in-depth dialogue in order to restore lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Mali”.
UN under attack
Meanwhile, the premises of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, were targeted on Tuesday by unidentified assailants in Aguelhok, in the Kidal region.
Preliminary reports describe a complex attack involving indirect mortar and small arms fire against a number of MINUSMA locations there.
“UN peacekeepers retaliated, forcing the assailants to flee. No casualties or material damage have been reported on the UN side”, according to UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujaric.
At the same time, MINUSMA continues to closely monitor political developments in the country and reiterated its commitment to work with ECOWAS and the AU towards a return to constitutional order through free and transparent elections.
MINUSMA joined ECOWAS in stressing that the transition timetable be respected and concluded within the agreed to18-month deadline.
“To achieve this goal, the Mission says it is important that the new government, headed by a civilian prime minister, be inclusive and enjoy the broadest possible support”, said Mr. Dujarric.
The UN peacekeeping mission also reiterated the demand that house arrest measures be immediately lifted and for the “immediate and unconditional release” of aides and staff.
“We will continue to support the people of Mali, unwavering support, [as it] continues to pursue its efforts to combat insecurity, support the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, and help stabilize the country, in line with the UN peacekeeping mission’s mandate in the country”, said the Spokesperson.
Post Pandemic Recovery: The Rise of the Alpha Dreamers
There are five billion alpha dreamers across the world; why because they are connected globally with all sorts of devices,...
Russia and Japan: Inseparable Partners
By all accounts, Japan with its strong economy and many high-quality manufactured brands is practically searching to expand into foreign...
Saudi Arabia steps up effort to replace UAE and Qatar as go-to regional hub
Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to outflank the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as the Gulf’s commercial, cultural, and/or...
Sedition law: Hand-maiden of the Modi’s government
Sedition laws have become a handmaid of India’s government under Narendra Modi to stifle dissent, incarcerate political opponents or persecute...
Bitcoin Legalization In El Salvador: Heading Towards A Crypto-Friendly Regime
Cryptocurrencies are surely one of the hotly debated topics across the globe. There’s always an ambiguity surrounding the usage and...
The Leaders of the Western World Meet
The annual meeting of the G7 comprising the largest western economies plus Japan is being hosted this year by the United...
You could have been black too: Describing racism in Venezuela
“Black woman! . . . if you were white and had straight hair / My mother told me in distress...
Economy3 days ago
Is Bangladesh falling into a China’s Debt-Trap Like Sri-Lanka?
Intelligence3 days ago
Uranium is being traded freely in the open market in India
Terrorism3 days ago
FATF: A Sword of Damocles or a tool of financial discipline?
Europe2 days ago
Greece And Yugoslavia: A Brief History Of Lasting Partitions
Africa2 days ago
Lawrence Stargomena Tax Says Goodbye, and Calls for Scaling Up Sustainable Development
Human Rights2 days ago
2021 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
Russia2 days ago
Putin and Biden meeting – a chance for a better world
New Social Compact2 days ago
Reasons of societal disintegration in Pakistan’s society