Millions of children are suffering from severe malnutrition, and could die without assistance. Canada has an obligation to act at June’s G7 summit.
By Lindsay Glassco
“Whenever I see a man speaking with my mother, I get scared thinking that I am the deal,” says 13-year-old Faisa in Somalia.
Faisa and her family were forced to leave their home after all their livestock died and they were unable to find water or food. She fears she will be sent to the city to work, or be married in exchange for money.
Sadly, Faisa is not alone in her fears.
At the G7 summit next month, Canada has both the opportunity and the obligation to act on a rapidly worsening global hunger crisis, one which has already led to devastating knock-on effects on girls’ rights.
Gender-based violence is rising in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, particularly for women-headed households and adolescent girls. Child marriage is on the rise, and families have stopped sending girls to school.
Wet seasons in the region have been interspersed with multiple exceptionally dry seasons, leading to flooding and displacement. A devastating locust outbreak has damaged crops and livestock across eastern Africa.
And things are getting worse. In Somalia, which normally imports over 90 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, the prices of wheat and cooking oil have risen by 300 per cent. The conflict in Ukraine has led to similar impacts in many countries that are net importers of food. This, at a time when up to 811 million people — more than a tenth of the world’s population — already go to bed hungry every night.
In 53 countries or territories, 193 million people are acutely food insecure — an increase of 40 million from 2020. In Ethiopia, South Sudan, Madagascar and Yemen, over half a million people face imminent starvation and death. Forty-five million children are suffering from severe malnutrition, and could die without emergency assistance.
Armed conflict is the biggest driver of global hunger, with eight out of 10 food crises driven by such strife. Protracted fighting from Mali to Mozambique has destroyed livelihoods, forced families from their homes and made it harder for humanitarian organizations to reach those who need emergency assistance. We also know that the impacts of climate change, notably extreme weather events, have significantly exacerbated food insecurity. Together, conflict and climate shocks have been described as a “ring of fire” that is driving people toward starvation.
Despite all of this, response plans for the world’s worst humanitarian crises were grossly underfunded at the end of last year, with many not reaching even half of their required targets.
That’s why Canada’s humanitarian sector is calling on the government to champion a global strategy to end the global hunger crisis. This should include an urgent increase to emergency food; flexible funding for cash and voucher assistance; and critical protection for adolescent girls and women, along with sexual and reproductive health support. The plan should also prepare to mitigate the impacts of future disasters by responding to early warning indicators, including through social protections that address the vulnerabilities of girls and young women, who are so often the first to go hungry and the last to eat.
When famine struck Somalia in 2011, 260,000 people died following an initially slow humanitarian response. Over a decade after this indelible failure of humanity, more people are food insecure in Somalia than during the 2011 famine. To pull millions back from the brink of famine in the world’s worst hunger hot spots, we must act now with urgency.
We owe it to girls like Faisa to ensure they have safe, nutritious and sufficient food year-round. While Canada has taken important steps to respond to the global hunger crisis, there is much more to be done. At the upcoming G7 summit in June, Canada and other participating nations must show the leadership the world so urgently needs.
Source: Toronto Star