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Amid Food and Climate Crises, Investing in Sustainable Food Cold Chains Crucial- UNEP Report

More than 3 billion people can’t afford a healthy diet; Lack of adequate refrigeration directly results in the loss of 526 million tons of food production or 12 per cent of the global total; Developing countries could save 144 million tonnes of food annually if they reached the same level of food cold chain infrastructure as developed countries

As food insecurity and global warming rise, governments, international development partners and industry should invest in sustainable food cold chains to decrease hunger, provide livelihoods to communities, and adapt to climate change, the UN said today.

Launched today at the 27th Climate Change Conference, the Sustainable Food Cold Chains report, from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), finds that food cold chains are critical to meeting the challenge of feeding an additional two billion people by 2050 and harnessing rural communities’ resilience while avoiding increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The report was developed in the framework of the UNEP-led Cool Coalition in partnership with FAO, the Ozone Secretariat, the UNEP OzonAction Programme, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

“At a time when the international community must act to address the climate and food crises, sustainable food cold chains can make a massive difference,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “They allow us to reduce food loss, improve food security, slow greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, reduce poverty and build resilience – all in one fell swoop.”

Food insecurity on the rise

The number of people affected by hunger in the world rose to 828 million in 2021, a year-on-year rise of 46 million.

Almost 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, up 112 million from 2019, as the economic impacts of the Covid pandemic drove up inflation. This year, meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine has raised the prices of basic grains threatening food security.

All of this comes while an estimated 14 per cent of all food produced for human consumption is lost before it reaches the consumer. The lack of an effective cold chain to maintain the quality, nutritional value and safety of food is one of the major contributors to food loss.

According to the report, developing countries could save 144 million tonnes of food annually if they reached the same level of food cold chain infrastructure as developed countries.

Post-harvest food loss reduces the income of 470 million small-scale farmers by 15 per cent, mainly in developing countries.  Investing in sustainable food cold chains would help lift these farm families out of poverty.

Sustainable food cold chains can make an important difference in our collective efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

“Sustainable food cold chains can make an important difference in our collective efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. All stakeholders can help implement the findings of this report, to transform agri-food systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable – for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind” said QU Dongyu, Director-General of FAO.

Climate impact

The food cold chain has serious implications for climate change and the environment. Emissions from food loss and waste due to lack of refrigeration totalled an estimated 1 gigatonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2017 – about 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

In particular, it contributes to emissions of methane, a potent but short-lived climate pollutant. Taking action now would contribute to reducing atmospheric concentrations of methane this decade.

Overall, the food cold chain is responsible for around four percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions – when emissions from cold chain technologies and food loss caused by lack of refrigeration are included.

Lost food also damages the natural world by driving the unnecessary conversion of land for agricultural purposes and using resources such as water, fossil fuels and energy.

Reducing food loss and waste could make a positive impact on climate change, but only if the new cooling-related infrastructure is designed to use gases with low global warming potential, be energy efficient and run on renewable energy.

The adoption of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the Rome Declaration on “the contribution of the Montreal Protocol to sustainable cold chain development for food waste reduction” provides a unique opportunity to accelerate the deployment of sustainable food cold chains.

Progress being made

Projects around the world show that sustainable food cold chains are already making a difference. In India, a food cold chain pilot project reduced losses of kiwi fruit by 76 per cent while reducing emissions through the expansion of the use of refrigerated transport.

In Nigeria, a project to install 54 operational ColdHubs prevented the spoilage of 42,024 tonnes of food and increased the household income of 5,240 small-scale farmers, retailers and wholesalers by 50 per cent.

But these projects, which are illustrated among many other case studies in the new report, are still the exception rather than the norm.

Recommendations for decision-makers

To expand sustainable food cold chains globally, the report issues a series of recommendations for governments and stakeholders, including:

  • Take a holistic systems approach to food cold chain provision, recognizing that the provision of cooling technologies alone is not enough.
  • Quantify and benchmark the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing food cold chains and identify opportunities for reductions.
  • Collaborate and undertake food cold chain needs assessments and develop costed and sequenced National Cooling Action Plans, backed with specific actions and financing.
  • Implement and enforce ambitious minimum efficiency standards, and monitoring and enforcement to prevent illegal imports of inefficient food cold chain equipment and refrigerants.
  • Run large-scale system demonstrations to show the positive impacts of sustainable cold chains, and how interventions can create sustainable and resilient solutions for scaling.
  • Institute multidisciplinary centres for food cold chain development at the national or regional level.
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Agricultural Automation Can Boost Global Food Production- UN Report

A new U.N. report finds agricultural automation can boost global food production and be a boon for small-scale farmers in developing countries.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, has just released The State of Food and Agriculture 2022 report. The report’s authors said automation is rapidly changing the face of agriculture. New technologies, they say, are quickly leaving behind some of the old larger-type tractors and large machinery in ways that could benefit small holders in developing countries.

Parallels can be drawn with the introduction of cell phones. The World Bank, among other observers, notes that African and other developing countries can harness digital technologies to boost their economies by advancing from landlines to smartphones.

FAO said automation can play an important role in making food production more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Chief FAO economist Maximo Torero said many emerging technologies would have been unimaginable years ago. He cited as examples fruit-picking robots that use artificial intelligence and sensors that monitor plants and animals.

“Automation allows agriculture to be more productive, efficient, resilient, and sustainable and can improve working conditions,” Torero said. “However, as with any technological change, automation also implies disruption to the agricultural systems. The risk is that the automation could exacerbate inequalities if we are not careful on how it is being done and developed and deployed.”

FILE - A weeding robot is pictured during a demonstration of new technologies at the Arvalis farm, an applied agricultural research organization, on June 15, 2016, in Saint-Hilaire-en-Woevre, eastern France.
FILE – A weeding robot is pictured during a demonstration of new technologies at the Arvalis farm, an applied agricultural research organization, on June 15, 2016, in Saint-Hilaire-en-Woevre, eastern France.
The report looks at 27 case studies from all over the world. They represent technologies at different stages of readiness suitable for large or small agricultural producers of varying levels of income.

Torero said the report investigates the drivers of these technologies and identifies barriers preventing their adoption, particularly by small-scale producers. The report, he said, also looks at one of the most common concerns about automation — that it creates unemployment.

“While it concludes that such fears are overblown, it acknowledges that agricultural automation can lead to unemployment in places where rural labor is abundant, and wages are low,” he said. “It is important to understand that in a continent like sub-Saharan Africa, where there is an enormous amount of youth population, we can build the skill sets of these people to be able to have access to these technologies.”

In areas where cheap labor is abundant, the FAO urges policymakers to avoid subsidizing automation while creating an enabling environment for its adoption. At the same time, the report said governments should provide social protection to the least skilled workers who are likely to lose their jobs during the transition.

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Uganda: Two districts locks down over spread of Ebola

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered an immediate lockdown and imposition of a dusk-till-dawn curfew for three weeks in two districts in a bid to stop the spread of Ebola.

Places of worship, markets, bars, and entertainment will be closed and restrictions have been placed on movement in and out of the two central districts of Mubende and Kassanda for 21 days.

“I now direct as follows: movements now into and out of Mubende and Kassanda districts are now prohibited,” said Museveni in a televised address on Saturday.

“If you are in Mubende and Kassanda districts, stay there for 21 days,” Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, said.

Ebola
Red Cross workers carry a body bag containing the body of a 3-year-old boy suspected of dying from Ebola, October 13, 2022 in Mubende [Luke Dray/Getty Images]
The health ministry said on Saturday that there have been 19 deaths and 58 confirmed cases of the often-fatal viral haemorrhagic fever since the outbreak was first reported on September 20.

Authorities said the outbreak is concentrated in the two affected districts and has not reached Kampala, the capital of 1.5 million, despite a husband and wife testing positive there.

Cargo trucks to be allowed

The Ugandan president, however, said cargo trucks will be allowed to enter and leave the two areas, but all other transport has been suspended.

“These are temporary measures to control the spread of Ebola. We should all cooperate with authorities so we bring this outbreak to an end in the shortest possible time,” he added.

Museveni had already ordered traditional healers to stop treating sick people and ordered police to arrest anyone suspected of having contracted the virus who refused to go into isolation.

ebola
Ugandan Red Cross workers place a coffin, containing an Ebola victim, into a grave during a Safe and Dignified Burial on October 11, 2022 in Mubende [Luke Dray/Getty Images]

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding, and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

Uganda’s last recorded death from a previous Ebola outbreak was in 2019.

The particular strain now circulating in Uganda is known as the Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine.

The World Health Organization says clinical trials could start within weeks on drugs to combat that strain.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES
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Global inflation threatens food insecurity in Africa -IMF

Africa’s central banks are walking a tightrope trying to curb inflation that is mostly out of their control and causing “horrifying” food insecurity, the International Monetary Fund’s Africa head warned.

The IMF’s twice-yearly Regional Economic Outlook released on Friday warned that 123 million people, or 12% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population, face acute food insecurity – where the lack of access to adequate food puts someone’s life or livelihood in immediate danger – by the end of the year.

That compares to around 82 million people affected before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the hammer blow of the virus, spillovers from the war in Ukraine as well as worsening unrest and drought in parts of the continent have seen the numbers spiral.

“What worries us really is the fact that this is coming on top of all of the dislocation caused by the pandemic,” the IMF’s Abebe Selassie told Reuters this week

“I was in Chad (in May) and really the conditions that you saw there in terms of food security really are very, very horrifying.”

Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya are also on track for a fifth failed rainy season, with famine looming in Somalia.

Annual food price inflation in sub-Saharan Africa has stood at over 10% since the second half of 2021 and the IMF’s new economic forecasts this week revised up its regional inflation projection by 2 percentage points to 8.7% for this year.

It also cut the GDP growth forecast by 0.2 percentage points to 3.6%, a significant drop from the 4.7% expansion in 2021, and has said Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe may all need to raise interest rates faster or more decisively.

“It’s a delicate balancing act that central banks face,” Selassie said. “Inflation is this insidious, insidious tax on the poorest.”

Food prices rising again
Food prices rising again

Rapidly rising global interest rates mean that sub-Saharan Africa’s most heavily-indebted countries have effectively lost access to the international capital markets.

That has pushed countries including Ghana to request IMF bailouts and Selassie said work was still ongoing to determine if the West African country now needs debt relief.

Ethiopia, Zambia, and Chad, meanwhile, had long been seeking to restructure their debts under the G20 Common Framework initiative established in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Progress has been painfully slow. Ethiopia’s restructuring has been delayed by ongoing civil war, although IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva has said this week she hoped both Zambia and Chad’s processes would now be finished by the end of the year.

Chad’s bilateral creditors said late Thursday that the country now did not need debt relief, given the surge in the price of crude oil, one of the country’s major revenue earners. Oil trading and mining firm Glencore (GLEN.L), Chad’s largest commercial creditor, declined to comment.

“The delay from Chad’s creditors in approving much-needed debt relief has been really very problematic,” Selassie said in a press conference on Friday.

“We want to make sure that the resources we provide will go to support Chad rather than address an unsustainable debt situation,” he said, referring to a three-year, $570 million programme approved in December. “The benefits of these higher oil prices should accrue as much to Chadian people as much as its creditors.”

“Is everything working as timely, as speedily as we hoped? No,” Selassie said of the Common Framework, in an interview before the statement from Chad’s creditors. “But I also want to stress that there’s been quite a lot of cooperation from members of the G20, China, and others.”

He said Zambia and Chad’s restructurings now rely on the private firms and funds that provided the country with loans.

“Anything that exceeds what is a reasonable ask of the Zambians would be unfair to the people of Zambia,” Selassie added.

He warned that more African countries might need to restructure their debt.

“If global conditions persist,” he said, “There will be some countries that will require debt reprofiling.”

Meanwhile, an assessment of Ghana’s debt sustainability is ongoing, Selassie said in the press conference, after the West African country requested help from the fund amid soaring inflation and a tumbling currency.

The IMF is waiting for the government to set out how it will address its debt, while a fund programme will also depend on how quickly Ghana implements planned economic reforms, Selassie said.

Reuter*

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Jubilations as Malawi Announces Rollout of Africa’s First Children’s Malaria Vaccine

Malawi’s health ministry says it will soon roll out Africa’s first malaria vaccine for children under age five.

The RTS,S vaccine, which was tested in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, took more than 30 years to develop. While the vaccine has a relatively low level of effectiveness, it has raised hopes of saving some of the more than 400,000 people who die annually from the mosquito-borne disease, most of them African children.

The vaccine roll out, scheduled for next month, follows the completion of the pilot phase. Since 2019, the World Health Organization has vaccinated 360,000 children per year in Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya, one-third of them in Malawi.

Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Malawi’s minister of health, said children are especially at risk of malaria during the rainy season, in the months of November and December.

Chiponda said the decision on the vaccine was reached following discussions between Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera and representatives of PATH, a global health nonprofit organization when Chakwera attended this year’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

The WHO endorsed the vaccine years ago, saying it was a breakthrough in the fight against malaria.

A person sleeps under a mosquito net in Balaka district, Malawi, Sept. 28, 2022, as people in the country are encouraged to do to help prevent malaria. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
A person sleeps under a mosquito net in Balaka district, Malawi, Sept. 28, 2022, as people in the country are encouraged to do to help prevent malaria. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
The vaccine, sold by GlaxoSmithKline as Mosquirix, is about 30% effective and requires four doses.

However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, backers of the vaccine, have raised concerns about whether the vaccine is worth the cost.

In July, The Associated Press quoted Philip Welkhoff, director of malaria programs for the Gates Foundation, as saying the foundation will no longer offer direct financial support for the shot, although it will fund an alliance backing the vaccine.

He said the malaria vaccine has much lower efficacy than the foundation would like and that the shot is relatively expensive and logistically challenging to deliver.

However, Maziko Matemba, health activist and community health ambassador in Malawi, is not discouraged.

“Now that finally the malaria vaccines will be launched in Malawi is welcome news, and we hope that the under-five [age group] will be protected because according to statistics, Malaria is so endemic in the under-five [age group] and we are adding a package in the prevention of malaria,” Matemba said.

Matemba said the 30% efficacy is nothing to worry about, as not all vaccines are 100% effective.

“When we had [the] COVID vaccine it was not 100%. It was at 70% or so. So it’s the same case with this,” Matemba said.

Statistics show that malaria is the number one deadly disease in Malawi. The disease accounts for 36% of all hospital outpatients and 15% of hospital admissions.

Despite its relatively low effectiveness rate, some scientists say the vaccine will have a major impact against malaria in Africa, which records 200 million cases and 400,000 deaths per year.

*VOA

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GAMBIA: Deaths of dozen children linked to India-made cough syrups

The deaths of dozens of young children in the Gambia from acute kidney injuries may be linked to contaminated cough and cold syrups made by an Indian drug manufacturer, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

The findings, announced by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, followed tests on several medicinal syrups that were suspected of causing 66 child deaths in the small West African country.

Tedros told reporters that the U.N. agency was conducting an investigation with Indian regulators and the company that made the syrups, New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Maiden Pharma declined to comment, while calls and messages to the Drugs Controller General of India went unanswered. India’s health ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The WHO issued a medical product alert on Wednesday asking regulators to remove Maiden Pharma goods from the market.

The products may have been distributed elsewhere through informal markets, but had so far been identified only in the Gambia, the WHO said in its alert.

The alert covers four products: Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup.

Lab analysis confirmed “unacceptable” amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which can be toxic and lead to acute kidney injury, the WHO said.

Medical officers in Gambia raised the alarm in July, after dozens of children began falling ill with kidney problems. The deaths confounded medics before a pattern emerged: dozens of patients younger than 5 were falling ill three to five days after taking a locally sold paracetamol syrup.

Gambia’s Director of Health Services Mustapha Bittaye said similar problems have been detected in other syrups but that the ministry is awaiting confirmation of the results.

He said the number of deaths has tapered off in recent weeks and that the sale of products made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals was banned. However, until recently, some of the syrups were still being sold in private clinics and in hospitals, he said.

Gambia’s Medicines Control Agency sent a letter on Tuesday to health professionals ordering them to stop selling any of the products listed by WHO.

Maiden Pharmaceuticals manufactures medicines at its facilities in India, which it then sells domestically as well as exporting them to countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, according to its website.

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WHO: Cholera surging globally as climate change intensifies

Cholera is surging around the globe, the World Health Organization warns.

Flareups of the deadly disease have been reported in 26 countries in the first nine months of this year. In comparison, fewer than 20 countries reported cholera outbreaks per year between 2017 and 2021. In addition to greater frequency, the WHO reports the outbreaks themselves are larger and more deadly.

While poverty and conflict are major triggers of cholera, climate change is a growing threat.

Philippe Barboza, WHO team lead for Cholera and Epidemic Diarrheal Diseases, said climate change presents an additional layer of complexity and creates the conditions for cholera outbreaks to explode.

“This is what we have seen in southern Africa with the succession of cyclones that affected the eastern part of the African Coast,” Barboza said. “The drought in East Africa is driving population movements, reducing access to water, which is already needed. So, of course, it is a key factor, which is fueling the outbreak. And the same in Sahel and other places.”

Fifteen of the 26 cholera-infected countries are in Africa, according to the WHO.

FILE - A girl carrying water on her head walks past sewage around houses in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 3, 2021.
A girl carrying water on her head walks past sewage around houses in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 3, 2021
Barboza said massive climate-induced floods in Southeast Asia also have resulted in large outbreaks of cholera in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many countries that have made significant progress in controlling cholera are now back to square one, he added.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease caused by contaminated food or water. It can kill within hours if left untreated. Cholera outbreaks can be prevented by ensuring access to clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene, as well as stepping up surveillance and access to health care, Barboza said.

“This is what we need countries to do, but that is easier said than done. Although many of the cholera-affected countries are actively engaged in these efforts, they are facing multiple crises, including conflict and poverty, and this is why international action is so important,” he said.

Cholera is a preventable and treatable disease, Barboza said, so with the right foresight and action, the current global crisis can be reversed.

*VOA

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Nigeria: MSF seeks humanitarian aid for troubled northwest child malnutrition

Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders has called on the United Nations to add northwest Nigeria to its humanitarian response plan, due to the high numbers of children suffering from malnutrition. The group, known by its French abbreviation MSF, said it has treated nearly 100,000 children in the region for malnutrition this year.

In a communique Tuesday, MSF warned that malnutrition among children in northwest Nigeria is at catastrophic levels and called for an immediate response from the global humanitarian community.

MSF even proposed that northwest Nigeria be included in the U.N.’s annual humanitarian response plan.

It’s the second time in three months that the medical aid group has raised serious concerns about the malnutrition crisis in Nigeria, following an alarm about northeast Nigeria in July.

Northwest Nigeria has been hard-hit by militant attacks and raids by kidnap-for-ransom gangs since late 2020.

MSF also said climate change and soaring food prices have made matters worse.

“We have scaled our response. We’re almost at a limit basically because we cannot handle this alone,” said Froukje Pelsma, MSF’s head of mission in Nigeria. “This is why we’re asking for more people to come.”

Pelsma said there are more than 30 organizations working in the northeastern part of the country but only three or four agencies in the northwest working on malnutrition.

“We want people, most especially the U.N. and other agencies, to look beyond the northeast,” she said.

MSF said it has admitted 17,000 children into 10 feeding centers across five states in the region.

Zamfara State has been the most impacted, with a 64 percent increase in the number of severely malnourished children this year compared to 2021.

“We’re working now in Kebbi, Sokoto Zamfara, Katsina, and in Kano, but we’re still also very much afraid and pretty sure that we only see the top of the iceberg,” Pelsma said. “We can see numbers, but that doesn’t mean that that covers the whole issue, because we cannot be in every location.”

For years, humanitarian responses have been centered around northeastern states, especially Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, where the militant group Boko Haram has been active since 2009.

This week, top officials of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) met in the capital to highlight problems of food security, with the goal of strengthening responses, using agriculture.

“There’s a lot to be done. This is a country where we have quite a big segment geographically that is affected by different forms of conflict,” said Fred Kafeero, FAO representative in Nigeria. “But how do we intervene in terms of strengthening and responding to that humanitarian emergency and moving towards resilience building? Much of our work is also looking at the root causes and trying to strengthen and build sustainability in the process.”

On Wednesday, MSF is taking part in a high-level humanitarian coordination team meeting with top officials of the United Nations.

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UN’s WFP plans food relief for 700,000 Zimbabweans

An official said that the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is planning a food relief programme targeting 700,000 people in Zimbabwe who are affected by a poor harvest and the Ukraine war.

Zimbabwe’s government is working with agencies to provide food aid for 3.8 million people, the WFP told Reuters on Tuesday

The southern African country has been struggling to feed itself since 2000 when former leader Robert Mugabe championed the seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless Black people.

The current administration has said it expects its staple maize harvest to fall by nearly half this year, to 1.56 million tonnes from last season’s 2.72 million tonnes, due to poor rainfall in the 2021-2022 growing season.

The country requires 2.2 million tonnes of maize annually for human and livestock consumption.

WFP said it had budgeted $40m for the food aid programme to cushion millions over the peak of the hunger season from October, when poor households run out of food stocks, to March when harvesting starts.

“I do not think this is famine as yet, but that does not mean that it is good. We are preparing for a response that will take off from October to March. We are working with the government on a joint plan for the food deficit mitigation programme for 3.8 million people,” WFP country representative Francesca Edelmann told Reuters.

She said the number of food insecure people had shot up from 2.9 million to 3.8 million, warning that more households could go hungry as grain stocks dwindle.

Rising food prices, coupled with higher fuel costs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have driven Zimbabwe’s inflation from 61 percent in January to 285 percent in August, undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s efforts to revive the country’s economy.

SOURCE: REUTERS
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Somalia: At Least $1 Billion Needed to Avert Famine Says UN Chief

The U.N. humanitarian chief predicted Tuesday that at least $1 billion will be needed urgently to avert famine in Somalia in the coming months and early next year when two more dry seasons are expected to compound the historic drought that has hit the Horn of Africa nation.

Martin Griffiths said in a video briefing from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu that a new report from an authoritative panel of independent experts says there will be a famine in Somalia between October and December “if we don’t manage to stave it off and avoid it as had been the case in 2016 and 2017.”

The undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs told U.N. correspondents that more than $1 billion in new funds is needed in addition to the U.N. appeal of about $1.4 billion. That appeal has been “very well-funded,” he said, thanks to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which announced a $476 million donation of humanitarian and development aid in July.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, created by USAID, said in a report Monday that famine is projected to emerge later this year in three areas in Somalia’s southeastern Bay region, including Baidoa without urgent humanitarian aid.

Up to 7.1 million people across Somalia need urgent assistance to treat and prevent acute malnutrition and reduce the number of ongoing hunger-related deaths, according to a recent analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification or IPC, used by the network to describe the severity of food insecurity.

The Horn of Africa region has seen four straight failed rainy seasons for the first time in over half a century, endangering an estimated 20 million people in one of the world’s most impoverished and turbulent regions.

Griffiths said meteorologists have predicted the likelihood of a fifth failed rainy season from October to December, and a sixth failed rainy season from January to March next year is also likely.

“This has never happened before in Somalia,” he said. “This is unprecedented.”

“We’ve been banging the drum and rattling the trees trying to get support internationally in terms of attention, prospects, and the possibilities and the horror of famine coming to the Horn of Africa – here in Somalia maybe first, but Ethiopia and Kenya, probably they’re not far behind,” Griffiths said.

He said the U.N. World Food Program has recently been providing aid for up to 5.3 million Somalis, which is “a lot, but it’s going to get worse if famine comes.” He said 98% of the aid is given through cash distributions via telephones.

But many thousands are not getting help and hungry families in Somalia have been staggering for days or weeks through parched terrain in search of assistance.

Griffiths said a big challenge is to get aid to people before they move from their homes, to help avoid massive displacement.

Many Somalis raise livestock, which is key to their survival, but he said three million animals have died or been slaughtered because of the lack of rain.

“Continued drought, the continued failure of rainy seasons, means that a generation’s way of life is under threat,” Griffiths said.

He said the international community needs to help Somalis find an alternative way of life and make a living, which will require development funding and funding to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Griffiths, a British diplomat, said the war in Ukraine has had an impact on humanitarian aid, with U.N. humanitarian appeals around the world receiving about 30% of the money needed on average.

“To those countries, which are traditionally very generous, my own included, and many others,” he said. “Please don’t forget Somalia. You didn’t in the past. You contributed wonderfully in the past. Please do so now.”

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