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COVID-19 pandemic drives global increase in humanitarian food assistance needs
by Fews Net, Reliefweb, WFP, IPC, agencies
Sep. 2020
First Famines of Coronavirus Era are at World’s Doorstep, U.N. Warns. (New York Times)
The first famines of the coronavirus era could soon hit four chronically food-deprived conflict areas — Yemen, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — the top humanitarian official of the United Nations has warned.
In a letter to members of the Security Council, the official, Mark Lowcock, said the risk of famines in these areas had been intensified by “natural disasters, economic shocks and public-health crises, all compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.” Together, he said, “these factors are endangering the lives of millions of women, men and children.”
The letter, which has not been made public, was conveyed by Mr. Lowcock’s office to the Security Council on Friday under its 2018 resolution requiring updates when “the risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity” occurs. A copy of the letter was seen by The New York Times.
United Nations officials have said before that all four areas are vulnerable to acute food deprivation because of chronic armed conflicts and the inability of humanitarian relief providers to freely distribute aid.
In April, David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, the anti-hunger arm of the United Nations, warned the Security Council that while the world was contending with the coronavirus pandemic, “we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic.”
Mr. Lowcock, who is the United Nations’ under secretary for humanitarian affairs, effectively escalated the warning, saying a lack of funding for emergency relief and the complications created by the coronavirus scourge have now pushed some of the world’s neediest populations closer to famine conditions.
Under a monitoring system for assessing hunger emergencies known as the Integrated Food Security Classification or IPC scale, Phase 3 is a crisis, Phase 4 is an emergency, and Phase 5 is famine — the worst — marked by “starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels.”
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In Yemen, where famine was averted two years ago, Mr. Lowcock said “the risk is slowly returning.” The country, the poorest in the Arab world, has been ravaged for more than five years by a civil war between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-backed military coalition that has left 80 percent of the country dependent on outside aid.
Mr. Lowcock said the Yemeni currency has basically collapsed, while food costs have surged and drinking-water prices have more than doubled since April. In 16 districts of the country, nearly all in Houthi-controlled areas, he said, the hunger emergency is now at Phase 4 — one step from famine.
In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where decades of conflict have worsened this year, Mr. Lowcock said 21 million people are living in “crisis or worse levels of food insecurity.”
In the northeast Nigeria states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, which have been roiled for years by armed extremist militants, Mr. Lowcock said more than 10 million people — four of five — now require humanitarian assistance and protection.
He said more than 1.2 million people in northeast Nigeria “remain largely inaccessible to aid agencies due to conflict and deliberate obstruction by nonstate armed groups,” with more than 15 aid workers killed in the past year.
In South Sudan, which has been upended by seven years of civil war, a recent upsurge in violence has left more than 1.4 million people “facing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity,” Mr. Lowcock said. Two years after the threat of famine was narrowly averted in South Sudan, he said, “parts of the country are again deteriorating sharply.”
Aug. 2020
FEWS NET estimates 90 to 100 million people are in need of humanitarian food assistance in 2020 across its 29 monitored countries, roughly a quarter of whom are in urban and peri-urban areas. These totals represent a sizable increase and notable shift in the population in need of humanitarian food assistance relative to assessed 2020 needs prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when total food assistance needs were estimated to be roughly 25 percent lower, and one-tenth of needs were in urban and peri-urban areas.
Across the globe, governments continue to enact measures to suppress the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures consist largely of movement restrictions and social distancing that help limit the spread of the virus, though they also limit access to income-earning opportunities for many populations and slow trade activities.
For example, poor urban households rely heavily on daily wage labor and self-employment to earn the income necessary to purchase food to meet their basic needs. However, COVID-19-related restrictions have led to a significant decline in income and food access among poor urban households.
* FAO/WFP Analysis - Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots (July 2020):
* Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analyses of food insecurity and malnutrition situations:

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World Humanitarian Day 2020: A tribute to aid workers on the front lines
by UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs
19 Aug. 2020
Today, World Humanitarian Day, the world honours all humanitarians – many working in their own communities – who are going to extraordinary lengths in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by humanitarian crises and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice of these real-life heroes represent the best of humanity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive increase in humanitarian needs it has triggered.
First responders are often people in need themselves, members of civil-society and community based organizations, local health workers, non-government aid workers, amongst others. They bring food, shelter, health care, protection and hope to others amid conflict, displacement, disaster and disease.
But humanitarian workers are being tested like never before, struggling with unprecedented movement restrictions and insufficient resources as pressing needs are outpacing funds.
And all too often, they risk their own lives to save the lives of others.
In recent weeks alone, despicable attacks have killed aid workers in Niger and Cameroon, and since the onset of the pandemic, scores of health workers have come under attack across the world.
A surge in attacks against health workers was recorded in 2019, including strikes against medics in Syria and shootings of Ebola workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to Humanitarian Outcomes’ Aid Worker Security Database, major attacks against humanitarians last year surpassed all previous years on record. A total of 483 relief workers were attacked, 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped in 277 separate incidents. This is an 18 per cent increase in the number of victims compared to 2018.
Most of the attacks occurred in Syria, followed by South Sudan, DRC, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. Mali and Yemen both saw a doubling of major attacks from the previous year. The UN condemns these attacks, and it calls for accountability for perpetrators and justice for survivors. Relief workers cannot ever be a target.
This is the eleventh World Humanitarian Day, designated by the UN General Assembly. It falls on the day of the attack on the UN compound in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, which claimed the lives of 22 people including UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello. Since then, nearly 5,000 humanitarians have been killed, wounded or abducted, and the 2010-2019 decade experienced a 117 per cent increase in attacks compared to 2000-2009. Yet, today humanitarian workers are assisting people in crises in over 63 countries.
Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: “To humanitarian workers everywhere doing important, courageous work on the front lines we say Thank You. You are saving lives every day, and as new challenges and crises are piling on to existing ones, your perseverance is an inspiration. Your protection is also paramount to making sure we can deliver to people most in need. The best way to pay tribute to humanitarian workers is by funding their work and ensuring their safety.”
In tribute to the efforts of humanitarians, we present a few personal stories of some of the #RealLifeHeroes who are stepping up to meet the challenges, particularly local humanitarian workers. They include refugees who as health workers are playing essential roles in the pandemic response; Ebola health workers who are stepping in to fight COVID-19; and doctors and nurses who continue to provide critical health care to women and children.
* COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan (July update 110pp):
* FAO/WFP Analysis - Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots (July 2020):
* The cost of doing nothing: The price of inaction in response to the COVID-19 crisis:
* Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 (88pp): July 2020 update:
# As of end July, the plans in the Global Humanitarian Overview, including the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, aimed to provide assistance to 249.6 million of the 405.7 million people in need. This significant increase is due to the addition of countries facing humanitarian impacts of COVID-19 and its associated health and socio-economic shocks, as well as the increases in both COVID and non-COVID needs in countries with existing inter-agency coordinated plans.

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