UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations secretary-general says early action by the international community has helped avert widespread famine, but the number of people in need is continuing to grow.
In February, António Guterres warned that 20 million people were facing starvation in South Sudan, Somalia, North East Nigeria and Yemen, and he appealed for more than $5.6 billion for 2017.
“While we have succeeded in keeping famine at bay, we have not kept suffering at bay,” Guterres told a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday on the issue.
He said while the international community responded quickly, and nearly 70 percent of the required funds have been received, lack of access has hampered distribution.
“In the past nine months, the need for humanitarian aid has increased in these four areas,” the U.N. chief said.
Guterres said conflict is the major force driving these food crises.
“Until these conflicts are resolved and development takes root, communities and entire regions will continue to be ravaged by hunger and suffering,” he added.
The U.N. says in South Sudan alone, the number of people deemed severely food insecure has risen by a million this year to 6 million. In Boko Haram-affected areas of northeast Nigeria, there are 8.5 million people who require humanitarian assistance.
In Somalia, where drought and insecurity are obstacles, more than 6 million people depend on aid for their survival. And in conflict-wracked Yemen, a staggering 17 million people are food insecure.
Hunger also is fueling outbreaks of cholera, malaria and measles, and adding to the migration and refugee crisis across the globe.
Security Council members expressed continued frustration with actors on the ground hampering aid and threatening those delivering it.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said there is no excuse for delaying aid deliveries.
“All members of the council and the international community must come together to hold all actors on the ground accountable,” she said. “When they block aid, we have to call them out.”
“Yes, we need more funding; yes, we need more access; but this will not end these crises or stop new ones from emerging,” said Swedish envoy Carl Skau. “There must be political solutions to the conflicts that are driving these entirely preventable humanitarian crises.”