March 18, 2023 — The International Rescue Committee is disappointed that a deal has been brokered for only 60 days for the Black Sea Grain Alliance before its expiration date today, March 18. While it is good the deal was renewed, 60 days is far too short.
Countries in East Africa, in particular, depend on the deal – including Somalia, which currently receives over 90% of its grain from Ukraine, is suffering from unprecedented drought and is on the verge of famine. The deal’s expiration risked contributing to a rise in global food prices that would further exacerbate global hunger.
This conversation is not over. In 60 days, countries across East Africa will enter the lean grain season. This means a precarious hunger situation is at risk of getting far worse. While the IRC welcomes today’s renewal of the Black Sea Grain Alliance, we urge the UN and member states to consider a further renewal in 60 days for a full 12 months. This will help reduce pressure on food prices and limit speculation on grain futures, while ensuring grain exported through the mechanism reaches the countries most in need – in East Africa and elsewhere.
In addition to the grain deal, to stem the tide of global hunger, the UN must reenergize its High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine, prioritizing countries at highest risk: Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. The task force's membership should be expanded to include international financial institutions, local and international NGOs, leading and emerging donors, and engage closely with affected states and populations each year. The task force should focus on unlocking the political will to respond to a famine risk, mobilizing investments at scale to respond to early warning systems, and coordinating collective action across the international community. In addition to coordinating the global response, the task force should mobilize a donor pledging conference on famine risk.
The UN must also increase the ability of acutely malnourished children to access lifesaving treatment by adopting simplified approaches that are effective and efficient. Sixty million children under 5 are experiencing acute malnutrition, including 18 million children living in conflict and crisis-affected contexts. In Somalia specifically, half of all children are suffering acute malnutrition. Two million children die each year. Treatment with a fortified peanut paste, known as ready-to-use therapeutic food, allows the great majority of acutely malnourished children to recover in a matter of weeks. This lifesaving treatment does not reach 80% of the children in need due to an overly complex and clinical approach to treatment and lack of sustained funding. The IRC has proven innovations to deliver this solution at scale, increasing the number of children treated and lives saved at the same cost as the current approach. Over the past decade, the IRC has developed a simplified treatment protocol, using a single product and simplified diagnosis and dosing, that can be delivered by community health workers. This approach eliminates the unnecessary duplication, division and complexity that impede the reach of the prevailing treatment protocol. We know our solution works, even in the most challenging settings. A recent, largest of its kind study, conducted by the IRC in partnership with the Mali Ministry of Health treated more than 27,000 children with the simplified protocol and saw recovery rates over 90% while decreasing treatment costs by 21% for a severely malnourished child.