A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Kenya's Prime Minister will be the first world leader to sign a ground-breaking Charter that would make deadly food crises like the one gripping East Africa a thing of the past.
The document, A Charter to End Extreme Hunger, will be launched on Saturday as heads of state and other delegates at the United Nations General Assembly in New York focus on the East Africa crisis.
The Charter outlines five key actions that governments of rich and poor countries should take to stop widespread starvation as a result of drought, high food prices and conflict.
Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose country is suffering from the effects of the current crisis, will help launch the charter in New York on Saturday. He will sign the document and call on others to do so. The launch will also be attended by campaigner Sir Bob Geldof and Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
The Charter was drafted by a coalition of aid agencies and civil society groups who are asking for key commitments from world leaders to prevent future hunger disasters, while at the same time calling for the emergency response for East Africa to be properly funded and scaled up.
Fran Equiza, Oxfam's Regional Director for Horn, East and Central Africa said:
“World leaders know what they have to do to prevent this level of suffering -- now they must actually deliver. The Charter gives achievable solutions to extreme hunger so we're asking governments to act now for people suffering across East Africa.”
ONE’s Africa Director, Dr. Sipho Moyo, said:
“While drought is inevitable, there can be no excuse for letting people die of starvation. We have a collective responsibility to do whatever we can to end this untold suffering, and this responsibility falls most heavily on the shoulders of the world leaders in New York this week. They need to show the millions of people affected by this terrible crisis that they will not be forgotten.”
The UN estimates that 750,000 people in Somalia are currently at risk of death because they do not have enough to eat.
Aid agencies and governments are working to provide urgently needed aid to the region, but the consensus is that today’s crisis could have been avoided if the right steps had been taken early on.
Organizations including Save the Children, Oxfam, ONE and World Vision are calling for governments around the world to take action in five key areas:
- Responding early: The current crisis in East Africa was predicted months in advance, yet warnings were largely unheeded. Governments must ensure that early warnings mean automatic early action to prevent a repeat of the tragedy playing out in East Africa.
- Supporting local food production: Supporting local, small-scale farmers and livestock owners is one of the best ways to protect against hunger crises and mitigate against a changing climate and soaring food prices. Governments must make sure that local food producers are supported to protect against price and environmental shocks.
- Making food affordable: Spiralling food and oil prices have complicated the current crises, leaving thousands of people unable to afford basic foods. Governments must stockpile emergency food reserves and limit the use of food export bans to prevent spikes in food prices.
- Protecting the poorest and most vulnerable: Millions of people around the world are living on the edge of survival. Governments should build social safety nets and invest fairly to ensure the poorest sections of society enjoy the same protections and services as the richest.
- Reducing armed conflict: Violence is one of the principal causes of mass starvation. Governments must commit to allowing and providing access for humanitarian aid to regions where conflict is hampering development, and engage in vigorous diplomacy to help end conflict.
Action taken by governments in these areas can drastically reduce the number of people at risk of life-threatening hunger. In the region, initiatives launched after previous hunger crises, that provide extra help to the most vulnerable so that they are able to cope when food is scarce, have been credited with saving thousands of lives in the current crisis..
Notes to editors
A PDF of the Charter is available here: http://oxf.am/4Ep
The Charter has been drafted and endorsed by groups including: ActionAid, Merlin, Oxfam, Islamic Aid, Christian Aid, The Eastern Africa Civil Society Forum, CAFOD, Tearfund, International Medical Corps, Channel 16, Eastern & Southern Africa Farmers' Forum, International Rescue Committee, Muslim Aid, The Legal Resources Foundation, ADRA International, ONE, Plan International, Save the Children, West African Civil Society Forum, World Vision.
Heads of state and other delegates are currently in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of world leaders at the UN headquarters in New York.
Louis Belanger, Oxfam
tel: +1 212 687 2678; mob: +1 917 224 0834