Global hunger is on the rise for the fifth straight year, the United Nations Security Council reaches a deal on Syria cross-border aid, and the Congo Ebola outbreak surpasses previous case counts. This week in development:
The U.N. released its flagship hunger and nutrition report Monday, and the numbers do not look good. The trend of rising global hunger continued for the fifth straight year — the opposite direction that levels of malnutrition need to move for the world to reach Sustainable Development Goal 2, which calls for zero hunger, by the 2030 deadline. The “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report is produced annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization. It found that nearly 690 million people went hungry in 2019, which marks an overall increase of 60 million people over the last five years. In Asia, 381 million people do not regularly have access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food. That figure is 250 million in Africa and 48 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. These numbers are likely to get even worse as COVID-19 continues to disrupt agriculture, supply chains, mobility to markets and grocery stores, and livelihoods. “Recession creates unemployment, and unemployment will create significant problems in terms of capacity of people to access food. Food is available and food will be available in 2020. The problem is the capacity of people to purchase food,” FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero told Devex. The report estimates that 83 million people, or even as many as 132 million, could go hungry because of the pandemic. A separate analysis from the Ceres2030 project shows that $10 billion is “urgently needed” to prevent this additional slide into hunger because of the pandemic, with $5 billion coming from donor governments and the remaining half provided by low-income countries themselves.
The U.N. Security Council finally came to an agreement on cross-border aid for Syria just hours after the previous six-year accord’s expiration, which would have left millions of Syrians without access to lifesaving assistance like food and medicine. In a vote Saturday, 12 countries expressed support for updated resolution 2533, which provides humanitarian access from Turkey into northwestern Syria at the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing for one year. China, Russia, and the Dominican Republic abstained. As Friday night’s deadline approached last week, China and Russia vetoed a resolution put forward by co-sponsors Germany and Belgium, objecting to the term and number of access points. Russia insisted in its own resolution on extending access for just six months at only one crossing — dramatically down from the four that were operating a year ago. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the final agreement a “compromise” that his country and Belgium “fought hard in difficult negotiations” to achieve. “We cannot and do not want to conceal that we believe more crossings are necessary,” Maas said in a statement. Humanitarian organizations expressed relief that some agreement for continued access was reached. “We are however appalled that some Security Council members succeeded in removing the Bab-al Salam crossing point into the Northwest, which served one million people with health supplies in May alone - not to mention the failure to re-authorize the Yaroubiya crossing into the Northeast,” David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement. The presence of COVID-19 in Idlib, confirmed last week, makes it even more important for humanitarian organizations to have full access to the population, Miliband said.
The ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo’s western Équateur province is on the rise, WHO has reported — just weeks after a two-year-long outbreak in eastern Congo was finally declared over. WHO said Thursday that case counts in the area have now surpassed those from the 2018 outbreak, when there were 54 cases and 33 deaths. The current outbreak began on June 1 and has now reached 56 cases, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa at WHO, during a press briefing. "This is of great concern, particularly as it is now surpassing the previous outbreak in this area, which was closed off and controlled," she said. "Some cases are located in remote areas surrounded by rainforests, demanding additional capacities and resources for the response. This just illustrates the fact that countries have to — at the same time as responding to the COVID-19 pandemic — then have to deal with other health problems." As of Sunday, WHO had recorded 20 deaths from Ebola in Équateur, but contact tracing and testing remain a challenge, said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. He said thousands of people have been vaccinated and therapeutics are being actively used to treat cases. The country also continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, with 8,134 confirmed cases and 189 deaths. “I would caution everyone that while the numbers in this [Ebola] event are low, again in the era of COVID it's very important that we do not take our eyes off these other emerging diseases. And we saw in North Kivu in other previous outbreaks of Ebola that these can get out of control very easily,” Ryan said. “We're very focused on continuing to support the government of Congo in eliminating Ebola once more in this situation.”