Drought in Kenya

With 45 million people on the brink of famine, Islamic Relief Worldwide has joined 120 organisations in signing an open letter calling on world leaders to take urgent action:

1st December 2021

Dear world leaders,

It is over six months since the UN warned that famine risk is soaring globally. We – a group of 120 NGOs from around the world – are at a loss that since then the crisis has only worsened. There has been a 370% rise in people experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger since April and now a staggering 45 million people are at extreme risk – on the brink of famine.

These numbers do not tell the whole story. Behind them are people suffering immensely from a crisis that we can prevent. What will it take for this situation to change?

The promises of the G7’s Famine Prevention Compact issued in May have not yet been met. It is clear that, since then, the situation has only deteriorated. Grand gestures do not fill empty stomachs. As the UN Secretary General has recently alerted, less than half the funding needed to stave off famine in six countries of highest concern (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Southern Madagascar, north-east Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen) has been received to date. Meanwhile, some Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) are less than 20% funded.

The number of people at risk, and associated costs, are escalating, rising from $6.6bn needed to support 41 million people at risk of famine a few months ago, to $7bn needed to feed the 45 million people at risk across 43 countries, now. As basic food needs go unmet, humanitarian crises are escalating. One in 33 people worldwide are now in need of humanitarian assistance and one in ten people has malnutrition. The gap between needs and humanitarian funding is stark in some of the most vulnerable regions.

Conflict, the climate crisis, economic shocks and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic are set to push more people into crisis level hunger and malnutrition in 2022. Conflict in particular is escalating globally, forcing families to flee their homes and lose their livelihoods. The hunger and malnutrition this is causing disproportionately affects women and girls putting them at increased risk of extreme hunger and gender-based violence.

In conflict settings, supporting peacebuilding and conflict prevention is also crucial. Further, it is time that political commitments made to uphold international law, safeguard people’s human rights and secure access to aid are acted upon. All parties to a conflict must facilitate humanitarian access, protect civilians and desist from using starvation as a method of warfare. Obstacles, such as sanctions and access denial, to humanitarian action are severely compounding a crisis that cannot be healed with money alone.

We have watched the number of people in need rise in 2021. We call on World Leaders to take the urgent action desperately needed now to reverse this trend in 2022.

The full list of 120 signatories is available here

April 2021: Aid organisations call on governments to give a single day’s military spending to fight hunger