The heads of the three food agencies of the United Nations (UN) this week made a joint call for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.
Speaking at the conclusion of a four-day visit to Ethiopia, including to the drought-stricken Somali region, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), made their appeal after they visited projects that treat dwindling herds to limit further livestock deaths, and met drought-affected people receiving food rations.
Back-to-back droughts have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in need of food aid. In the Somali region, rains have failed for the third consecutive year. The death of many livestock has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates. While an emergency response led by the Government has begun to stabilize the situation, the UN agencies say that additional resources are still urgently needed to prevent any further deterioration.
FAO, IFAD and WFP are working with the Government of Ethiopia to eliminate hunger in the country. In meetings with Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, and other high-level government representatives they discussed the need for greater collaboration and investment in resilience.
“It is essential to invest in preparedness and provide farmers and rural communities with knowledge and tools to safeguard themselves and their livelihoods. We’ve witnessed here that saving livelihoods means saving lives - it is people’s best defense against drought,” said Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO
“A drought does not need to become an emergency,” said Houngbo, President of IFAD. “We know what works. In the Somali region, where there is investment in irrigation systems, water points, rural financial institutions, health and veterinary services and other long-term development projects, the communities can better sustain themselves and their livestock through this devastating drought. This is what we need to build on.”
“We have seen clearly here that working together the three UN food agencies can achieve much more than alone,” said Beasley, head of WFP. “Of course we already collaborate, but now we will take these models and replicate them and scale them up across the world. We need to save lives while investing to support sustainable, resilient environment for communities across the globe so they prosper and succeed,” he added.
The impact of long-term development projects undertaken by the food agencies was described in the Tigray region, where the agency heads saw irrigation schemes, fruit nurseries and health centers that are boosting productivity, increasing incomes and improving nutrition so that rural people can better withstand external shocks like droughts.
WFP’s Beasley Calls on Saudis to End Yemen Aggression, Fund All Aid
During his Addis Ababa tour, WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley raised eyebrows with candid comments about Saudi Arabia’s responsibility for the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Beasley said that Saudi Arabia alone should fund steps to tackle widespread disease and hunger besetting Yemen, where the Saudis have been leading a military campaign for two and a half years.
Beasley was appointed as Executive Director of the World Food Program in April 2017 after being nominated by US President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley and a career in American politics including a term as Governor of the State of South Carolina as a member of the Republican party.
Fighting between the Saudi-led Arab coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has killed more than 6,200 people and caused over 32,000 casualties in Yemen since March 2015. Water networks, power plants, airports, bridges, roads, schools and health facilities have all been destroyed in the fighting.
The US and UK provide the Saudi coalition with logistical support and military equipment for the conflict.
The World Health Organization reported (July 2017) a cumulative total of 408 583 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen including 1885 associated deaths for the current outbreak which started in October 2016. The Yemen cholera epidemic has been described by aid agencies as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, while humanitarian aid has been limited by conflict and blockades of sea ports and airports.
Calling for an end to the Saudi coalition’s campaign, Beasley accused Saudi Arabia of hampering provision of aid. “Saudi Arabia should fund 100 percent (of the needs) of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” he said. “Either stop the war or fund the crisis. Option three is, do both of them.”
Reuters’ report describes David Beasley’s interview comments as “unusually forthright for such a (senior) UN official in criticizing one party in a conflict”, while the WFP head’s sharp tone was described as “forsaking the UN’s customary diplomatic stance” by Russian state-owned news outlet RT.com.