On Sunday, the world’s lead food ambassador, Ertharin Cousin, arrives in New York for the UN General Assembly meetings. She brings an urgent message: Millions of people are on the brink of starvation because of wars in the Middle East and Africa.
Cousin directs the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the largest agency fighting global hunger. WFP is struggling to feed hungry war victims in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. In addition, WFP is playing a key role in the Ebola response in West Africa. Food is vital to strengthening the population to resist the deadly virus.
WFP depends entirely on voluntary donations for these life-saving missions. As the General Assembly kicks off, millions of Syrians are having their rations reduced. WFP simply does not have enough funds to provide the needed food.
There are over four million people in Syria who depend for their lives on WFP’s food. Nearly three million Syrian refugees also receive WFP food aid in neighboring countries. So this is clearly one of the largest humanitarian operations since World War II. But it’s not the only one in the region. Right next door in Iraq, the growth of the terrorist army ISIL has led to a massive conflict displacing about 1.8 million people since January.
WFP is under great strain to keep up with the wars in the Middle East. As long as these conflicts persist, hunger will only get worse.
Then you also have to factor in wars in South Sudan and Central African Republic, as well as the Ebola response. These may be the largest emergencies WFP is facing. However, the UN food agency operates in over 70 countries. There are great needs in those nations too. In fact, Central America is facing a growing hunger emergency because of drought.
So Cousin will be very busy this week as the food ambassador, giving voice to the world’s hungry and suffering people. There are over 800 million people across the globe who are hungry and malnourished. The General Assembly is an opportunity for world leaders to organize the humanitarian response.
Cousin will also co-host an event called “Delivering Zero Hunger-Demonstrating Impact” which will “focus on new actions and commitments for a world with zero hunger.” The General Assembly has the power to save millions of children from the physical and mental damage of malnutrition. They must not fail.