Mar 17, 2022 - World

UN leaders urge the world to not forget about other global crises

Afghan woman
A displaced Afghan woman sits in a camp in Herat province on Jan. 16. Photo: Bilal Guler/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As countries quickly mobilize to respond to the deepening crisis in Ukraine, UN leaders are urging them to not forget about the ongoing crises in places like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen.

Driving the news: While the heightened focus on Ukraine is understandable and necessary, advocates say, there's growing concern dire humanitarian crises elsewhere may be neglected.

  • "In a word, developing countries are getting pummeled," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said this week. "They face a cascade of crises — beyond the Ukraine war, we cannot forget COVID and the impacts of climate change — in particular, drought."   

What's happening:

Yemen
  • On Wednesday, the UN raised less than a third of the $4.27 billion requested for relief efforts in what has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
  • "We hoped for more, and it is a disappointment we didn't get pledges from some we thought we might hear from," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told a pledging event co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland.
  • Ahead of the event, the World Food Program warned that it had already reduced rations for 8 million people in Yemen due to funding shortfalls. "We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving," WFP executive director David Beasley said.
  • The war in Yemen, now in its eighth year, has displaced millions.
Children walk in flood water outside tents damaged by torrential rain, at a camp for internally displaced people in the Khokha district of Yemen's war-ravaged western province of Hodeida
Children walk in flood water outside tents damaged by torrential rain in Yemen on March 16. Khaled Ziad/AFP via Getty Images
Afghanistan
  • UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi traveled to Afghanistan this week to "pass the message that other situations, which also require political attention and resources should not be forgotten or neglected," per Reuters.
  • Since the Taliban takeover and U.S. withdrawal from the country last August, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has deepened, with more than half the population experiencing acute hunger, according to the UN.
  • There are about 2.6 million Afghan refugees in the world and 3.4 million people displaced within the country, the UN estimates.
  • “As much as the world is rightfully preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, Afghanistan is experiencing a very grave crisis,” Grandi said at the end of a four-day visit.
n Afghan internally-displaced woman cooks in front of her tent at Shaidayee refugee camp in Injil district of Herat province on February 20, 2022.
An internally displaced Afghan woman cooks in front of her tent in Herat province on Feb. 20. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images
Ethiopia
  • The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday warned of the increasingly dire and "catastrophic" humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region, saying, "There is nowhere on Earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat."
  • An estimated 6 million people in Tigray have been "sealed off from the outside world" for almost 500 days due to a blockade by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
  • No food aid has been delivered since mid-December, and while the WHO was able to airlift medicines and other supplies for about 300,000 people to Tigray last month, "much more is needed," he explained.
  • "Just as we continue to call on Russia to make peace in Ukraine, so we continue to call on Ethiopia and Eritrea to end the blockade — the siege — and allow safe access for humanitarian supplies and workers to save lives."
People protest in Tigray in March 2021. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
People protest in Tigray in March 2021. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Myanmar
  • At least 440,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar since the February 2021 military coup. An estimated 14 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.
  • In a report out this week, the UN estimates that at least 1,600 people have been killed by security forces in the last year and thousands more detained.
  • The UN found that the "military has engaged in systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses — some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity."
  • "Meaningful action by the international community is urgently needed to stop yet more individuals from being stripped of their rights, their lives and their livelihoods," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.
Demonstrators make the defiant three-finger salute and hold flares as they march during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on March 3.
Demonstrators protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 3. Photo: Myat Thu Kyaw/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Meanwhile, crises continue to plague the Sahel, other parts of Africa, Venezuela, Central America and Haiti.

  • Global aid groups told Axios' Stef Kight they're struggling to keep up with the world's cascading humanitarian needs.

In Ukraine, Russia's unprovoked invasion has not only forced more than 3 million people to flee to neighboring countries and displaced millions of others, the war is causing prices of food, fuel and fertilizer to spike.

  • Russia and Ukraine provide about half of the world's sunflower oil and 30% of the globe's wheat, according to the UN. Ukraine alone provides more than half of the WFP's wheat supply.

The bottom line: "This war goes far beyond Ukraine," Guterres said.

  • "It is also an assault on the world’s most vulnerable people and countries," he added. "All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe."
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