IT is indeed shameful that in 2021 there should be tens of millions of people in the world facing starvation due to man-made crises. According to a recent report by the UN’s World Food Programme, 41m people in 43 countries are “on the very edge of famine”. Two years ago, this number was 27m; the latest figure shows a huge jump. Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen are the worst affected while Somalia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso are also areas of concern according to the UN agency. The primary factors contributing to famine-like conditions are conflict, climate change and economic instability. Prices of staple foods remain high, preventing the most vulnerable from buying food. But what is most disturbing is the situation states are facing due to conflict. For example, Yemen — where a Saudi-led and Western-supported coalition has been trying to oust the Iran-backed Houthi militia from power — has been described by the UN as the world’s biggest humanitarian catastrophe. Ethiopia, which also faced a famine in the 1980s, is currently in the midst of a civil war as the central government confronts the Tigray region.

To stave off the threat of famine confronting millions of people, more efforts need to be made to end the aforementioned conflicts. Moreover, for those who may deny the effects of climate change, these startling figures should serve as a wake-up call as environmental crises are having a direct impact on global food security. It is also a fact that we live in a highly unequal world; while rich states manage to largely insulate themselves from global shocks, a vast number of people — particularly in the Global South — barely have enough to eat. In this regard, those in the international community with deep pockets have a moral duty to support those facing starvation. If rich states can spend billions of dollars on deadly hi-tech weaponry and vanity projects, and launch disastrous wars, they can certainly spare funds to help feed humanity’s most vulnerable.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021

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