UN Geneva round-up: catastrophic food insecurity in east Africa, WHO in Ukraine

Women of Hatafo IDP camp arriving to meet the UN team in Baidoa, Somalia on 26 January, 2021. Photographed by Mokhtar Mohamed/UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.

A summary of the most critical issues being discussed at the United Nations in Geneva this week.

Threat to food security rises in Somalia as drought intensifies. As the fourth consecutive season without rain passes, almost 40 per cent of the Somali population are now facing extreme levels of food insecurity, a new report by the IPC (Integrated food security Phase Classification) warned on Tuesday – an almost twofold increase since the start of the year.

Lara Fossi, World Food Programme deputy country director for Somalia, emphasised the risk of a “complete humanitarian catastrophe” if urgent aid and support is not provided.

The gap between the growing hunger and the resources available has widened  to $149m. “We are having to take from the hungry to feed the starving”, Fossi said. Additionally global attention and funds have been dominated by the Ukrainian crisis, and the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 was severely underfunded.

South Sudan braces for  ‘catastrophic levels’ of food insecurity.  Almost two thirds of South Sudan’s population – ​​ record 7.74 million people – are likely to face hunger over the next three months from May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) representative in the country, Masheck Malo, said on Tuesday citing  the latest IPC findings released last week.

Of those people, an estimated 87,000 would face catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 5), which could only be remedied by humanitarian assistance, Malo told journalists in Geneva.

The report mentions climate shocks such as droughts and floods, communal and sub-national conflicts, low crop production, rising food prices and livestock pests and diseases, as well as the general depletion of household coping strategies due to the protracted crisis, as the key factors causing food insecurity.

Both FAO and WFP in East Africa are calling for the scaling up of urgent investments in short term and long term resilience-building to prevent households from falling back into these situations.

Mounting health crisis in Ukraine. In almost 50 days of conflict, Ukraine has suffered great losses to its healthcare system. The World Health Organization (WHO)  on Tuesday reported 108 verified incidents of attacks against healthcare facilities, in which at least 73 people have died and 51 injured.

The organisation  has mobilised 216 metric tonnes of emergency and medical supplies and equipment to Ukraine, of which 122 metric tonnes have already reached its destination, prioritising eastern and northern regions most affected by the war. WHO spokesperson, Bhanu Bhatnagar, said it is operating in active fighting zones and is trying to gain access to reopen operations in Kyiv as well as Mariupol.

Bhatnagar also called for the need to guarantee  safe passage of vital medical supplies and equipment . “Besides the threat, there could be many more deaths due to the lack of access to healthcare”.