Famine areas must be helped to thrive “not just survive”: UN chief

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A young boy suffering from malnutrition is held by his mother at an Outpatient Therapeutic Program in Somalia-One of the countries the Secretary General referred to at the security council. UNICEF/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin (file)

People who are vulnerable to famine conditions due to protracted conflict must be helped to “not just survive, but to thrive”.

That’s the key message from UN chief António Guterres on Thursday, updating Security Council members on countries at risk of famine.

More details from Matt Wells.

Nine months ago, the Secretary-General briefed the Council on the 20 million people in four countries who were at severe risk of famine, as well as 100,000 on the brink of starvation in South Sudan.

Although famine has been kept at bay in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and north-east Nigeria, Mr Guterres said the suffering was continuing and the key root cause of all the food crises remained: armed conflict.

Mr Guterres called for urgent measures to address the fighting, improve access to aid, and mitigate the terrible suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire.

“In the long term, we must focus on what communities and countries need to emerge from protracted conflict and instability. We must help people not only just to survive, but to thrive. Right now, we must urgently commit to increasing humanitarian aid and funding the programmes we have in place. Where we have not prevented or resolved conflict, we must support its victims and survivors.  It is unconscionable that aid agencies must make life-or-death decisions about who gets aid, because of a shortage of resources.”

The UN chief said prevention had to be the “watchword”; and although the international emergency appeal had been 70 per cent funded for the four countries on the edge of famine, long-term investment in sustainable peace is the only way to turn the page.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration:  1’14″

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