New York, NY, September 15, 2022 — As heads of state and diplomatic delegations from around the world gather for this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the IRC is calling for an urgent new approach to combating growing global hunger and malnutrition.
The hunger picture is dire globally. Acute food insecurity has more than doubled since 2019, with an estimated 345 million people now unable to meet their daily basic food needs. This insecurity has been exacerbated by the fallout from the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing impact of the climate crisis on the world’s most vulnerable. Amidst this grim global outlook, there are hunger hotspots that demand immediate attention, particularly Somalia as a famine designation looms.
“Famine can only be the result of human failure and inaction in the 21st century.” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC. “The alarms of early warning systems have been sounding for two years, but failed to catalyze prevention or mitigation efforts. The results of this inaction now are tragically clear, with six countries now on the brink of famine. Waiting for famine declarations to trigger action simply means aid will arrive too late for too many.
“At present, 300,000 people are predicted to face famine in Somalia by October unless immediate and sweeping action is taken to deliver aid to them and the 7.1 million people across that country in need of emergency food assistance. We know all too well what failure in this context looks like, mass displacement and tragic preventable deaths, disproportionately claiming the lives of young children. The impacts are generational - on communities, on families, on individuals. Global leaders cannot and must not fail to meet this moment and learn from it - to mean it when they say ‘never again’.”
To tackle the immediate crisis in East Africa and prevent famine in the most at-risk countries, IRC is calling on global leaders at this year’s UNGA to:
- Fully fund the humanitarian appeal for East Africa of $4.4 billion this year, ensuring funding is flexible and quickly reaches frontline NGOs.
- Expand access to lifesaving acute malnutrition treatment by endorsing simplified approaches--including a combined protocol--as a safe, effective, and cost-efficient approach to treatment.*
- Convene urgently under the UN High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Preventing Famine to coordinate an urgent and focused response for the countries identified as being at the highest-risk of famine, expanding the membership of this taskforce to include leaders from international financial institutions, and local and international humanitarian and development actors.
- Identify and address barriers to humanitarian aid delivery through elevated, robust and expedient diplomatic negotiations.
The IRC is also calling on the international community to commit not only to crisis response but to adopting medium and long-term measures to respond to food crises. This includes investing in increasing resilience to cyclical food shocks, including climate adaptation financing to meet the needs of millions already living under the worst impacts of climate change and investing in established social safety net channels in countries deemed at high risk of famine to bolster livelihoods and resilience as checks against food insecurity.
*Acute malnutrition increases a child’s risk of death up to 11-fold, but there is a solution. Treatment with RUTF is highly effective and can fully recover most children within weeks. Yet globally, just 20% of children access the care they need. One key barrier is an overly complex and inefficient system. The IRC, in partnership with Action Against Hunger and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has developed and tested a simplified, combined protocol which streamlines the treatment system by simplifying diagnosis, admissions criteria, and dosing, and provides treatment for all children with acute malnutrition at one delivery point. IRC has tested this approach in 10 countries and the evidence is clear: a simplified, combined protocol is equally effective, more cost-efficient, and easier to scale. To avert child deaths and increase access to lifesaving treatment, donors and UN agencies should give high-burden governments the option to choose a single treatment product (RUTF) to implement this innovative approach.
IRC provides nutritional assistance programming to an estimated 2.5 million people in more than 15 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
East Africa is home to some of the IRC’s longest-running programs globally, with operations in Somalia for over 40 years, Kenya for 30 years and Ethiopia for 20 years. Today, over 2,000 IRC staff in the region are scaling up our programs to address the current drought and rising food insecurity, including expanding to new areas to meet severe needs.