Humanitarian aid: global hunger crisis – letter to Foreign Secretary

Letter from the Minister for Culture Europe and International Development, Neil Gray MSP, to the UK Government Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Elizabeth Truss MP.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss, MP,
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

Dear Liz,

Growing global hunger crisis and UK Government support

Years of extreme weather events induced by climate change, conflict and the impact of the pandemic have all combined to contribute to increased food insecurity in many parts of the world. This has only been exacerbated by the impacts of Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

One region where the situation is most pressing is in the Horn of Africa. The World Food Programme estimates over 80 million people in East Africa are facing high acute food insecurity. Across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, more than 1.7 million children are severely malnourished, with a great many more at risk. The Horn of Africa is being impacted by what is expected to be the worst drought in 40 years, with four consecutive below-average rainfall seasons. There is a real risk the next expected rains will also fail. The response to the unfolding crisis is, I understand, significantly underfunded.

While it is absolutely right that governments around the world continue to give our full support to the people of Ukraine, we must not lose focus on the many other urgent humanitarian situations. As Rania Dagash, UNICEF’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa recently said “if the world does not widen its gaze from the war in Ukraine, and act immediately, an explosion of child deaths is about to happen in the Horn of Africa.”

The Scottish Government maintains a £1 million per year Humanitarian Emergency Fund (HEF). Its purpose is to provide effective assistance to reduce the threat to life and wellbeing of large populations faced with a humanitarian emergency. I recently decided to award £250,000 of this fund to respond to the growing hunger crisis in Ethiopia and Somalia.

As you are aware, the Scottish Government’s international development funding is in addition to the contribution Scotland already makes through the UK Government. I am therefore, once again, taking this opportunity to call on the UK Government to reinstate the commitment to invest 0.7% of the UK Gross National Income (GNI) in Official Development Assistance (ODA) without delay.

The cuts caused by reduction in 0.7 have been widely felt and the outcomes for the poorest severe. On 9 June I met Matthias Burchard, Director for Europe at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). He explained to me the important work UNRWA carries out, as well as the extremely tough financial environment in which it operates. This has been exacerbated by a huge cut in funding from the UK Government of 60% since 2019, from £65 million to £28 million. Funding for food aid for Gazans and those in the West Bank will run out in October.

I would be grateful if you could kindly let me know how the UK Government intends to respond to the worsening food insecurity situation in the Horn of Arica and also explain why such a drastic cut has been made to funding for UNRWA. Cutting the funding to meet basic humanitarian needs such as food, further underlines the importance and urgency of returning to the target of 0.7% of GNI being reserved for ODA.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Gray



Telephone: 0300 244 4000

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