GENEVA, 27 September 2011
– The head of the United Nation’s disaster risk reduction office, UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström, today strongly backed the NGO initiative “Never Again: A Charter to End Extreme Hunger.”
“The Horn of Africa crisis is a wake-up call for aid agencies, governments and donors alike. Given the collective experience of responding to drought emergencies over the last 50 years it seems almost beyond belief that we are once more desperately fighting a drought-fuelled famine which is threatening the lives and livelihoods of 13 million people,” said Wahlström.
“As Oxfam, Save the Children, ONE and others rightly point out in this Charter, all the warning signs were there in the Horn of Africa two years ago but the warnings were not acted on. The result is that more lives will be lost and more money will be spent because there was little or no support to timely and low-cost measures that would have reduced the risk of drought turning into a famine."
“Not only must the international emergency response system become more flexible in responding to early warnings, we must have more regular support for risk reduction at national and community level. UNISDR particularly welcomes the Charter’s call for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to be put at the heart of sustainable development.”
The Charter has five essential elements: fixing the flaws of the international emergency system; supporting local food production; ensuring services and protection for the poorest; making available food everyone can afford; and reducing armed violence and conflict.
The signatories of the charter commit to linking non-political, needs-based early warning signs of disasters with a timely and appropriate response, with donors supporting national and community preparedness plans to avert the worst effects such as acute malnutrition.
They also commit to support a UN General Assembly resolution that requires that the UN Central Emergency Response Fund releases funds at the first warning signs to meet the emerging needs and support immediate intervention.
The Charter is also critical of “decades of under-investment in small scale food producers and ineffective management of natural resources” and calls for longer-term plans to be put in place to fight food insecurity and malnutrition.
The signatories also commit to “protecting at an absolute minimum the poorest 10% of the population from the impact of food crises with safety nets. This will include direct cash payments based on need alone, specifically addressing the food and nutrition needs of women and children.”
They also commit to scaling up strategic and emergency food reserves and “tackling the causes of high and volatile food prices” and to providing “sufficient humanitarian assistance based on need where insecurity is destroying the chances of life and sustainable development.”