UN chief commends Nigeria, others for averting famine


UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

The Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. António Guterres, has commended the coordinated efforts of the Federal and State Governments with the international community for averting famine in northeast Nigeria.

The Secretary-General made the remarks at a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York ahead of the opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017.

Guterres said that when the international community act together, we could achieve results.

“The international humanitarian system sounded the alarm earlier this year about the threat of famine in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria.

“I remember this was my first press conference in this room.

“Despite serious food insecurity in these countries, which has tragic consequences, famine has so far been kept at bay – thanks to coordinated efforts by governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, donors, and the United Nations system.

“I want to express my deep appreciation to the work of all my colleagues in the UN humanitarian agencies. You, the media, have also played a very important part.

“Some 13 million people in these four countries are receiving life-saving aid each month. We must continue to meet the needs of all those who look to us for support.

“But this is a reminder that when we act together as united nations, we can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives,” Guterres said.

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The UN chief, however, regretted that while the headline crises rightly fill our screens and working agendas every day, they did not shine a spotlight on the Central African Republic, saying it was an under-reported emergency.

“In the Central African Republic, we have seen a 37 per cent increase in refugees and displaced people in just the last three months.

“This is grave cause for concern in a country where more than half the population are in dire need of assistance. I hope global leaders will give this crisis their attention during their talks next week,” he said.

Separately, Mr Mark Lowcock, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who just concluded a two-day mission to the Nigeria’s northeast, expressed delight that famine had been averted in the crisis-hit region.

“We have averted famine, but millions of people are still at risk if more international help is not forthcoming.

“At next week’s General Assembly in New York, I will urge world leaders to maintain their financial and political support for the Lake Chad Basin crisis, and to work with the Nigerian authorities to bring stability to the north-east,” he added.

President Muhammadu Buhari would be attending the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly and would address the general debate session on the first day on Tuesday.

In particular, Lowcock, also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, noted the Federal Government’s leadership and coordination of relief efforts and welcomed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s assurance to extend the government’s own food aid programme.

The UN aid chief also highlighted that the international system has also rapidly scaled up and saved millions of lives, reaching two million people with food assistance every month as well as providing life-saving nutritional support to hundreds of thousands of children.