Opening remarks by Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly at Situational briefing on the Secretary-General’s Call to Action on famine response and prevention
13 April 2017
Ms. Reena Ghelani, Deputy Director of Operations and Coordination & Officer in Charge, OCHA
Ladies and Gentlemen
Two weeks ago I travelled to Africa, and visited Senegal, Ethiopia and Egypt.
During my trip I met with leaders of Government, the UN system, the African Union, civil society, business and the media.
Throughout these discussions, it was emphasised time and again to me that Africa shares a grave concern at the humanitarian situation unfolding across large parts of the continent, particularly in North-East Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and in the neighbouring country of Yemen.
They implored me on my return to United Nations Headquarters to help raise international awareness of the gravity of the situation, and to seek your assistance in helping the affected people and nations during their hour of greatest need.
As we meet, more than 20 million people in the region face famine or the risk of famine.
It is disturbing to note that children, women and the elderly are being disproportionately affected by the crisis.
1.4 million children are estimated to be at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.
In South Sudan, women and older persons are being most impacted by food shortages, as households prioritize scarce food supplies for children.
In Yemen it is reported, around 3.3 million children, along with pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished.
While in Nigeria, 55 per cent of those displaced are children, and 48 per cent of these are under age five.
It is a dire situation that calls upon all of us to take urgent and decisive action to prevent this building catastrophe.
Humanitarian operations to address the situation require more than US$5.6 billion in funding this year alone.
And of this amount, at least $4.4 billion is urgently needed to provide assistance in the four critical sectors of Food, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation, and Health.
In February, the Secretary-General launched a Call to Action. To date, this has resulted in donors providing around 21 percent of the $4.4 billion required.
Today I wish to follow up that appeal to the international community. I urge Member States to dig deep into reserves of our empathy and common humanity.
Allow me to also seize this opportunity to call on Member States to scale-up their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as part of our longer-term global efforts to prevent the conflict, extreme weather and inequality which is at the root of so much of the despair we are witnessing.
To effectively respond to the crisis, all partners – across the peace, humanitarian and development pillars – will need to coordinate closely on the ground to save lives and build the resilience required to avoid such shocks in the future.
I would like to thank UNICEF and OCHA for joining us today, and for providing an update on the situation on the ground, and to report on progress of the Secretary-General’s Call to Action.