The government has promised £47m in extra emergency aid for 2021 as it becomes clear that the coming year will see a dramatic rise in people struggling for food.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Wednesday it will provide more aid for food, water, hygiene and shelter in 11 countries, including £8m to Africa’s Sahel region, where the UN has warned of catastrophic hunger.
“This extra emergency UK aid will mean people can feed their families and prevent these crises from escalating into widespread famine. We hope to see other donors step up to the plate with some extra funding to prevent these global crises getting worse,” said foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
The government said another £8m will go to supporting vulnerable Syrians. The majority of the remaining aid will be spent through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) which has had to cut back on food aid because of a massive shortfall in funding.
WFP said last week that basic rations being given out to refugees in Uganda would be slashed again, for the second time in a year. It would need $95.8m to provide full rations for the next six months.
“Covid-19 must not be an excuse for the world to turn its back on refugees at this terrible time,” said WFP country director El-Khidir Daloum. “We appreciate that donors fully funded our refugee operation in Uganda in 2019, but right now we are unable to keep up even basic food assistance and the poorest will suffer the most as we have to cut still further.”
The UN’s annual review of humanitarian needs highlighted increased food insecurity for countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and Unicef predicted 10 million people will experience acute malnutrition in 2021.
According to the report, food costs increased by more than 10% in some countries as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains and farming activity.
Humanitarian groups have also warned of famine in South Sudan which, they said, could already be under way,aggravated by conflicts that prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid.
WFP predicted in June that, in the countries where it is active, food insecurity would rise by 80% as a result of the pandemic, affecting 270 million people.
Unicef said that acute malnutrition for children will escalate in the Sahel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, north-east Nigeria, Yemen and South Sudan. In the past few days it has appealed for $1bn more to tackle malnutrition in 2021.