Leading economies need to pay their fair share to stop famine, Oxfam says

A Somali refugee stands inside a tent with her baby in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

The world’s leading economies set to meet in Italy need to step up to avert famine in Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, and address the existing famine in South Sudan, Oxfam officials said.

The upcoming G7 and G20 meetings provide the opportunity for wealthy countries to help fund the $4.9 billion needed by July to help the four countries. A warning by the U.N. earlier this year said up to 20 million people are at risk of famine if nothing is done. Some donations were made after the initial call, including $990 million by the U.S., but that is not enough.

From Oxfam’s point of view, it’s a question of whether countries commit to giving their ‘fair share’ to the U.N. appeal, which totals $6.3 billion for the year. According to Oxfam figures, G7 members alone could fund nearly half of the total, and the group will pressure G7 leaders this week at the Taormina, Italy, meeting.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan the U.K. and U.S. have contributed $1.7 billion to the crisis. They need to commit an additional $1.2 billion to meet their ‘fair share’ – a figure calculated by Oxfam based on the total need relative to the gross national income of donors.

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“Political failure has led to these crises -– political leadership is needed to resolve them,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement.

Money is the lead issue in the call, but Oxfam also emphasizes the need to end the conflicts contributing to the hunger crises in each of the countries. Lack of food is the basic problem, but the causes go beyond drought. Millions of people are displaced from their homes because of fighting and insecurity. Basic services, such as clean water and health care are absent or no longer available.

Oxfam officials point out that famine and hunger are the symptoms of these problems. World leaders must act to address the challenges like climate change and inequality to prevent future famines. Neighboring countries are affected by crises, similar to the case of the refugee crisis affecting Europe. Millions of refugees are living in the countries near Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan and more flee each day across borders to escape hunger.

“G7 leaders cannot walk away from Taormina without providing emergency funding and clear solutions to tackle the root causes: the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” Byanyima said.

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From the humanitarian side, more money is needed so groups like Oxfam can increase the reach of their response efforts. But it is not about the big NGOs, according to the report. One of the mistakes from past emergencies is that not enough money goes to local and national organizations. The report urges donors to partner with groups on the ground – which know the situation best – in order to have the greatest impact.

The seven countries meeting this week already made commitments pertaining to hunger. The 2015 meeting concluded with a joint commitment to “lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.” And all are part of the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to end hunger by 2030. Providing more money to the four countries meets both commitments, Oxfam officials said.

“As the world’s major economies, members of the G7 and G20 must not walk away from the Taormina Summit in Italy and the Hamburg Summit in Germany without announcing new funding and emphasizing clear solutions to provide life-saving relief to millions of people on the brink of famine,” according to the report.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.