Greater efforts in preparedness response, recovery and development interventions are needed from humanitarian actors for African nations to meet the immediate needs of their citizens, become more resilient to shocks and crises, and ultimately achieve food security, senior United Nations officials stressed today.
Speaking at an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly held this afternoon at Headquarters in New York on addressing humanitarian needs in Africa, particularly the needs of refugees, World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, who served as the event’s moderator, highlighted that every refugee crisis is by nature also a food and nutrition crisis. At the same time, she said, food and nutrition crises often drive conflict and displacement.
Moreover, growing levels of conflict and violence, coupled with the impact of changing climates, even El Niño, have not only protracted existing crisis, but have also created new displacements both within Africa and neighbouring regions, she stressed.
“The resulting increasing needs, as well as capacity and resource constraints, threaten our collective solidarity, which demands, at the very least, we respond to the basic needs of people in distress,” Ms. Cousin said.
The Executive Director said it was necessary to warn the General Assembly that meeting both the needs of new refugee populations as well as refugees in protracted situations is “increasingly challenging.”
She noted that WFP provides food assistance to more than 3.1 million displaced persons of concern in 25 countries across Africa. This past year, in East and Central Africa funding constraints forced WFP to cut rations by up to 30 per cent in five out of seven operations.
“While collective global solidarity demands making additional resources available, our primary duty is to galvanize innovation and new ways of working not only because of increased efficiency but also because of the improvements in well-being they offer. In practical terms, it means shifting our focus towards activities promoting self-reliance and income generation.”
The meeting today would be beneficial in identifying priority actions to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees, as well as to examine the necessary collective actions to support continent-wide resilience and achieve food security, Ms. Cousin said.
The meeting, titled “Humanitarian Response in Africa: The Urgency to Act,” included interventions from a number of panellists, followed by an interactive discussion between UN Member States, members of the UN system and other stakeholders.
Also speaking at the meeting was the President of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, who encouraged participants to move beyond a diagnosis of the problem and towards identifying real solutions.
“What we really need is to reform our overall approach to humanitarian response – take a long-term approach both in terms of financing and in terms of building resilience; investing in disaster risk reduction; breaking barriers between the development and humanitarian response so that we move forward within the 2030 Agenda together; and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our overall response,” he said.
This is precisely the task facing the World Humanitarian Summit next month, Mr. Lykketoft said, adding that he hoped today’s meeting could inform deliberations at the Summit and build momentum for “real commitments and real reform.”