Mon, Nov 13, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Ending conflict crucial to ending hunger: WFP head

AP, UNITED NATIONS

The head of the UN World Food Program (WFP) is telling world leaders that the only way to end global hunger is to end conflicts, which would also free up billions of dollars to build roads and infrastructure and promote economic growth in all developing countries.

David Beasley said in an interview last week that 19 countries are now in “protracted conflict” — which is “more conflict than we’ve ever had” — and 80 percent of the WFP’s funds are now going into conflict regions.

For many years, he said, the number of people facing extreme hunger fell despite the increase in global population, but in the last few years the number of people facing extreme hunger has increased from 777 million to 815 million last year — “all because of man-made conflict.”

In 2015, world leaders adopted new UN goals, first and foremost to eradicate extreme poverty — people living on less than US$1.25 a day — in all countries by 2030.

“Zero hunger by 2030? It’s a joke without ending the conflicts,” Beasley said. “If we end the conflicts, with the expertise and the food sector of the world, we can end world hunger.”

Beasley said he has recently visited many countries in conflict.

“It’s a disgrace on humanity, the number of innocent victims of conflict, children, that are starving to death because of nothing but man-made conflict,” he said.

When he met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whom he called “the grandpapa” of the east African region, Beasley said Museveni asked how much money the program was spending in South Sudan.

“I said: ‘It’s around a billion dollars.’ I said: ‘How’d you like to have a billion dollars for roads and infrastructure, for development in Uganda?’” Beasley said.

“It’s just being poured down the tube and nothing to show for it. We’re keeping people alive, and that’s a wonderful thing, but how long can you sustain that?” he said.

Beasley said he thinks it was “a game-changer” for Museveni, realizing how much money was not being used for development and to promote jobs and other opportunities because of conflicts.

He urged powerful nations around the world to work with the UN to end conflicts.

“Why don’t we put our heads together and have a comprehensive strategy and end just one? And then we’ll go to the next one, and then within a year we’ve ended two or three wars, saved us hundreds of billions of dollars,” Beasley said. “Let’s end Yemen or Syria or South Sudan. Let’s end something.”

In the meantime, Beasley said, the WFP needs between US$6.5 billion and US$6.8 billion this year to feed more than 80 million people.

While many world leaders have been expressing concern that US President Donald Trump’s administration might withdraw from international humanitarian operations, Beasley said: “Now I can make the case with clarity that the United States has not stepped back — it’s stepped up.”

“Traditionally, the US has provided about 30 percent of WFP’s budget, but this year he speculates that the Trump administration will contribute 35 to 40 percent, “up to maybe US$2.5 billion,” he said.

Over the next 12 months, Beasley said, he’s going to be identifying “which countries can do more and should do more.”

He named several targets, starting with the Gulf states, which he said “ought to pick up the humanitarian consequences of the wars and conflicts in their region, whether you’re talking about Syria, Iraq or Yemen.”

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