UN appeal falls way short as catastrophe looms in Africa

UN appeal falls way short as catastrophe looms in Africa
Matt Wade

The United Nations has received just 21 per cent of the money it needs to fight a four-pronged food crisis in Africa and the Middle East described as the worst humanitarian emergency since the Second World War.

Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan while Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are set to follow. About 20 million lives are at risk and 1.4 million children are at “imminent risk of death” from severe malnutrition.
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Halima Osman with her child, Mustafa, 14 months. Mustafa is treated for severe malnutrition at Hargeisa Group Hospital.
Halima Osman with her child, Mustafa, 14 months. Mustafa is treated for severe malnutrition at Hargeisa Group Hospital. Photo: Peter Caton/Red Cross Australia

Mustafa’s mother, Halima Osman, made a gruelling two-day journey so her son could be treated at an overcrowded “stabilisation centre” for malnourished children in the dusty town of Hargeisa, in Somaliland.

“My children are suffering so much from this drought,” she told the Herald while nursing Mustafa on a simple hospital bed.

But many children don’t make it – five infants died at the centre in the previous week.

Health workers warned malnutrition rates are rising rapidly in Somaliland and that many children will die unless help arrives soon.

Each one of the famine-plagued nations is reeling from civil conflict. Prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa region has also contributed.

International aid officials fear this year’s food emergencies will take a far bigger toll than the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa that killed more than 260,000 people.

Tim Costello, the chief advocate for World Vision Australia, said the public response to the food crisis has been “disproportionately modest” considering its scale.

“This is unbelievably large,” he said.

World Vision launched an East Africa emergency appeal five weeks ago but has only collected a 10th of the income received from its 2015 Nepal Earthquake appeal after a similar period.

Reverend Costello fears political “ill winds” may be turning Australians “inwards” at a moment of great humanitarian need.

The UN’s emergency relief co-ordinator, Stephen O’Brien, said last month the four-nation food emergency was the “largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN” in 1945.

So far this year the Australian government has provided $34 million to provide humanitarian assistance in Somalia and South Sudan ($17 million to each).

On Wednesday the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed Australia’s ranking as an aid donor has slipped from 16th to 17th out of 28 countries. Last year Australia spent 0.25 per cent of its gross national income on overseas aid, less than the international donor nation average of 0.32 per cent

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