Dear Secretary of State
I am writing on behalf of the United Nations Association of London and South East England (UNA LASER), which represents more than 20 local branches and many individual members throughout the Region.
The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises of the World Food Programme (WFP) noted that the coronavirus pandemic, along with unprecedented locust infestations in Africa, has put parts of the world at risk of famines “of biblical proportions”. It estimates that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people in the world suffering from extreme hunger could rise from 135 million to 250 million. The WFP is particularly concerned about 10 countries: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.
Of course, many of these countries’ problems are exacerbated by conflict. We have already written to the Foreign Secretary to urge the British government to use its good offices to support the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Now we are urging you to help address the hunger.
The Pandemic Alert section titled Mobilizing for the impact of COVID-19 in food-crisis countries identifies four necessary immediate initiatives. David Beasley, WFP’s head, wrote, “I do believe that with our expertise and our partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programmes necessary to make certain the Covid-19 pandemic does not become a human and food crisis catastrophe.” Of course, the WFP needs the resources to achieve this.
In introducing the Report, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, urges the international community, led by the sixteen members of the Global Network against Food Crises, to respond. Now the UK has left the EU, its principal link with the Global Network, and following the Joint Statement on COVID-19 Impacts on Food Security and Nutrition (21 April 2020) from the FAO, IFAD and the WFP, we ask you to clarify the UK’s response to the Secretary-General’s call and we look forward to this being posted on relevant government news pages.
We realise that the British government, understandably, is worried about the domestic cost of the pandemic. But it is important (and in our long-term interest) too, that we continue to be a world leader in working to help the poorest people of the world – both in the short term and in the longer term.
Chair, UNA LASER
27 River Court
London SE1 9PE