Wednesday, February 22, 2017 11:10 pm
UN Secretary-General António Guterres and heads of other UN emergency agencies have appealed to the international community to act urgently on the humanitarian crises in Northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen before they degenerate.
Guterres and the other speakers, at a press conference on the humanitarian crises in Nigeria and the three other countries, on Wednesday in New York, described the situation as overwhelming.
The Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other speakers were UN Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark, Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien and Executive Director, World Food Programme, Ms Ertharin Cousin.
“I am here with my colleagues to draw the world’s attention to the fact that today, more than 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and north-east Nigeria are going hungry, and facing devastating levels of food insecurity.
“Across North-East Nigeria, some 5.1 million people face serious food shortages. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, and nearly half a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition.
“Even if they survive, this may affect their health and development throughout their lives,” the secretary-general said.
According to him, UN agencies are deployed with plans in place for all these countries, and are scaling up the response.
“In North-East Nigeria, humanitarians are reaching more than two million people with food assistance,” he said.
We are also stepping up cooperation between humanitarian and development agencies, including the World Bank, strengthening collaboration, coordination and alignment and working towards common goals, he said.
Saving lives is the first priority, but we are also looking to build longer-term resilience to shocks, Guterres added.
He said he had asked the Administrators of the UN Development Programme and the Emergency Relief Coordinator to take immediate action to ensure a coordinated long-term approach.
According to him, they will set up a steering committee to link the UN Development Group and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for humanitarian assistance.
“One of the biggest obstacles we face now is funding. Humanitarian operations in these four countries require more than 5.6 billion dollars this year.
“We need at least 4.4 billion dollars by the end of March to avert a catastrophe.
“Despite some generous pledges, just 90 million dollars has actually been received so far – around two cents for every dollar needed.
“We are in the beginning of the year but these numbers are very worrying,” he regretted.
These four crises are very different, but they have one thing in common. They are all preventable, Guterres said.
They all stemmed from conflict, which we must do much more to prevent and resolve, he said, adding, “but even now, we can prevent the worst effects, if we act urgently and strongly”.
The UN chief urged all members of the international community to step up and to do whatever is in their power, whether mobilizing support, exerting political pressure on parties to conflict, or funding humanitarian operations.
“I want to make a personal appeal to the parties to conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and allow aid workers access to reach people in desperate need.
“Without access, hundreds of thousands of people could die, even if we have the resources to help them.
“The lives of millions of people depend on our collective ability to act. In our world of plenty, there is no excuse for inaction or indifference.
“We have heard the alerts. Now there is no time to lose,” the secretary-general said.
NAN reports that Clark, O’Brien and Cousin, in their separate contributions, said millions of lives had already been saved through the support of the UN agencies and other partner aid organizations in the four countries
The top UN officials, however, pointed out that more needed to be done and urgently, saying responding late could have negative consequences. (NAN)