Remarks as delivered as Chair of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response
Thank you, Kate [Warren], for your introduction and to OCHA for inviting me to speak on behalf of my distinguished NGO peers, in the capacity of the Chair of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response.
As we’ve been hearing, we live in a world of plenty and have the power to solve hunger. And yet today, we meet to launch a last-ditch effort to fight the kind of hunger that kills. How have we let it get this far, again?
Over and over, the world watches as people slide deeper and deeper into crisis. And as they inch toward famine, it becomes a political challenge yet again, to get those who hold power to prevent it, to even agree on the data that proves their suffering. It is our responsibility and our failure.
Warring parties block starving people from accessing basic services and humanitarian aid. It is unacceptable that we find ourselves in emergency meetings like this one urgently asking for funding – when we know that a fraction of the money needed today, combined with a locally-led response strategy and humanitarian access, would have saved so many more lives if it were available well in advance.
I am sad and tired of playing this game when we know this is preventable with a combination of proactive and timely investment, use of our decades of evidence, experience and learning, and political will.
Earlier this year Naume from Zimbabwe explained the impact of living in hunger, “It hurts me. I am out of ideas on what to do. The children are not eating properly, and I sometimes feel like I’m not raising them well enough.” No caretaker should have to feel like this - this is our collective failure, not Naumes.
We know how to prevent hunger and famine – by heeding early warnings and releasing funding before it’s too late. By building inclusive responses supporting the leadership of local communities and contributing to community resilience. And by prioritizing those most impacted like women, children, and socially marginalized groups.
Four years ago, the world watched while acute hunger gripped the people of South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Northern Nigeria. It wasn’t until famine was declared in South Sudan that the international community mobilized. Once more funding arrived, after calling for it long before it had reached famine proportions, NGOs were able to kick into high gear. That hunger crisis proved yet again that well-resourced community-driven action saves lives and halts famine in its tracks, but also that we still hadn’t learned the hard lessons that could have prevented it in the first place. And it feels like we still haven’t.
Today is an opportunity to rechart a course. To back words with action. To act for Naume and her children. I hope we take it.