The US has said that millions of civilians face famine-like conditions in Yemen, Ethiopia and other war zones around the world and is pushing for action against the “warmongers” who use hunger as a weapon.
Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, urged the UN Security Council to become better at spotting famines before they happen and punishing military leaders who block food and other aid from reaching those in need.
According to the UN, more than 88 million people suffered from acute hunger at the end of 2020 due to conflict – a 20 per cent rise compared to the previous year.
And estimates suggest that number is going up.
“We need better, earlier, more consistent reporting on these crises,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said on Thursday during a meeting of the Security Council, of which the US holds the rotating presidency this month.
“We need to ensure the Secretary General [Antonio Guterres] has the mandate and the tools to bring these emerging conflicts and potential starvation into the spotlight.”
Ms Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran US diplomat who has witnessed famine and other crises during postings in Africa, said the UN's top body must also "analyse and identify who is responsible for hunger" and take action against them.
“After all, acute hunger is the callous weapon of warmongers,” she said.
“It is caused by people with names and faces, and the people who suffer at their hands deserve justice.”
The UN council met against a backdrop of worsening hunger crises across Africa’s Sahel, the Horn of Africa, South Sudan and Afghanistan. More than 30 million people globally are “one step away” from famine, the UN says.
Conditions are worse still in parts of Yemen, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, where famine or famine-like conditions exist and more than 150,000 people are at risk of starving to death, the world body says.
This has all been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic that has infected more than 118 million people, killed more than 2.6 million others and caused widespread job losses and destroyed economies, Mr Guterres told the council.
“Ending hunger requires us to find political solutions to conflict. I urge all states to make ending conflict, not simply mitigating its impact, a key foreign policy priority,” said Mr Guterres.
“There is no place for famine and starvation in the 21st century.”