Last week, Christian Aid launched a global emergency appeal against hunger. That we had to take such a step feels like a collective failure. Hunger is a term that should belong in history. You will be forgiven for assuming that the heartbreaking television images of starving people are a relic from the 1980s.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from our current reality. The stark reality, exposed by the UN in its recent report on hunger spots, is that more than 30 million people in 20 countries are on the brink of famine and, without immediate action, many women, men and children will die.
In a growing number of countries in which we work, from South Sudan to Ethiopia, from Afghanistan to Burkina Faso and northeastern Nigeria, millions of people now face the dire threat of famine. Women who must walk extreme distances to find water, dead livestock and poor harvests caused by frequent droughts and intense floods, children who spend their school hours looking for food.
The triple crisis of climate change, covidity and conflict has led to skyrocketing food prices and increased hunger in many of the world’s poorest communities. As the conversation in the UK and other rich countries turns to ending pandemic restrictions and the promise of summer holidays, hunger threatens to anchor a wide divergence between rich and poor countries’ prospects for recovery.
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The situation in South Sudan, a country where Christian Aid has worked since the 1970s, tells a sadly familiar story. There, more than 7 million people, about 60% of the population, struggle to obtain enough food to live and 82% live in extreme poverty.
According to the UN, six of the country’s counties are already classified as ‘Phase 5 Catastrophe’, which means that people face starvation, death, homelessness and debilitating levels of acute malnutrition; and 34 states are at level 4, which means very high acute malnutrition and excess deaths.
We plan to respond by distributing food and cash, and improving the nutrition of young children and breastfeeding mothers, who are especially vulnerable to hunger. We are also planning to improve access to water, drinking, and agriculture and livestock, and supporting women’s livelihoods with seed capital for local businesses.
Experience tells us that these simple steps can make a big difference. But we also know that despite the 2018 peace agreement, the ongoing conflict in some parts of the country has worsened an already difficult situation. That is why we are working with partners, including the South Sudan Council of Churches, to advance community and national peacebuilding efforts and reduce intercommunal fighting.
Against this backdrop, the UK government’s recent decision to cut aid to South Sudan by nearly two-thirds feels reckless at best. One victim of the aid cuts is the peacebuilding work run by the Christian Aid church. As Christian Aid reaches out to the British public to ask them to respond to the global hunger crisis, we also join a growing number of Conservative MPs in calling for the UK government to reverse aid cuts to South Sudan and others. affected countries, and work with us to put hunger in the history books.
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi is CEO of Christian Aid. To contribute to Christian Aid’s Emergency Appeal Against Hunger, visit: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/appeals/emergencies/global-hunger-emergency-appeal