The UN has allocated $100 million to fight hunger in Africa and the Middle East as the spillover effects of the war in Ukraine threaten to push millions even closer to famine.
The contribution from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), announced on Thursday, will go towards relief projects in six African countries and Yemen.
The money will enable UN agencies and their partners to provide critical support, including food, cash, nutritional help, medical services, shelter, and clean water.
Projects will also be tailored to help women and girls, who face additional risks due to the crisis.
“Hundreds of thousands of children are going to sleep hungry every night while their parents are worried sick about how to feed them. A war halfway around the world makes their prospects even worse. This allocation will save lives,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Making a dire situation worse
The CERF funding will support humanitarian operations, with $30 million for the Horn of Africa, divided between Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Another $20 million will go to Yemen, while Sudan will also receive the same amount. South Sudan will be allocated $15 million, as will Nigeria.
Food insecurity in these countries is mainly being driven by armed conflict, drought and economic turmoil, and the Ukraine conflict is making a dire situation even worse.
The war began on 24 February and disrupted food and energy markets, causing food and fuel prices to soar.
Earlier this month, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that global food prices were at “a new all-time high”, reaching levels not seen since 1990.
Millions going hungry
Humanitarians measure food insecurity levels using a five-point scale called the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC).
Phase 5 is a situation in which “starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident.” Famine is declared when hunger and death rates pass certain thresholds.
Some 161,000 people in Yemen are projected to face the catastrophic Phase 5 level by the middle of the year, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.
In South Sudan, 55,000 people may already be experiencing it, while another 81,000 in Somalia could face the same if rains fail, prices continue to rise, and aid is not scaled up.
A global emergency
Meanwhile, around 4.5 million people across Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya are already, or soon will be, facing emergency levels of hunger – IPC Phase 4. The CERF funding will also boost response in Ethiopia, amid its worst drought in recent history.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned this week that the Ukraine conflict has triggered a “global and systemic emergency” across the food, energy and financial sectors.
The crisis risks pushing as many as 1.7 billion people globally, or more than one-fifth of the planet — into poverty, destitution, and hunger.
Mr. Guterres was speaking during the launch of a new UN report that outlines measures to limit the impacts, such as increased aid and fertilizer supplies, debt relief, and releases of strategic food and fuel reserves.
The CERF was established in 2005 to deliver urgently needed humanitarian assistance whenever and wherever crises arise.
The fund pools contributions from a range of donors, with more than 130 UN Member States, observers, others, including private individuals, providing more than $8 billion through the years.
Over the past six months, CERF has allocated more than $170 million to address rising food insecurity in several countries, including those that will receive the new funding.