O’Brien Briefing on Humanitarian Crisis
Content by: South-South News
13 March 2017, New York, USA | South-South News — The head of UN humanitarian operations, Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council that the world is facing the “largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations” with more than 20 million people facing starvation and famine across four countries. He said without collective and coordinated global efforts, “people will simply starve to death.”
Briefing the Council on March 10 on his recent trips to Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and north-eastern Nigeria, O’Brien expressed alarm at the funding gap to meet the needs in those countries.
O’Brien said all the war-affected people he met in Yemen told him three things, “they are hungry and sick and they need peace so that they can return home.” He stressed that hunger was on the rise in the country as two-thirds of the population was now in need of assistance and seven million Yemeni faced hunger, three million more than in January. O’Brien said leadership on both sides of the conflict promised to facilitate sustained humanitarian access, but “all parties to the conflict are arbitrarily denying sustained humanitarian access and politicize aid.” He said the humanitarian suffering in Yemen was caused by “the parties and proxies and if they don't change their behavior now, they must be held accountable for the inevitable famine, unnecessary deaths and associated amplification in suffering that will follow.”
Turning to South Sudan, O’Brien described the situation in the country as “worse than it has ever been.” He said the famine already declared in Unity State was “man-made” stressing that “parties to the conflict are parties to the famine, as are those not intervening to make the violence stop.” In his visit to that region, O’Brien listened to women who fled fighting with their children “through waist-high swamps to receive food and medicine.” He said some of the women had experienced the most appalling acts of sexual violence which continued to be used as a weapon of war.
The humanitarian chief described what he saw and heard during his visit to Somalia as distressing. He said the current indicators mirrored the tragic picture of 2011 in the country when some 260,000 people died of famine. He stressed that famine could be averted but the donor agencies and nations needed to “invest in Somalia.”
O’Brien said the warning call and appeal for action by UN Secretary-General António Guterres could not be understated. He added that it was right to sound the alarm early rather than “wait for the pictures of emaciated dying children on the world's TV screens to mobilize a reaction.” He reiterated that the UN and its partners were ready to scale up their response but needed “the access and the funds to do more” adding that it was possible to “avert these looming human catastrophes.”