May 25, 2018 / 4:39 PM / 10 months ago

U.N. denunciation of starvation as war weapon needs tough enforcement - experts

ROME, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A United Nations vote condemning starvation as a means of warfare is historic but will be useless without concrete steps to help millions of starving people, top experts said on Friday.

The 15-member Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday that threatens sanctions on countries that obstruct efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to avert food shortages and potential famine.

Wars dramatically worsen starvation, and about two-thirds of the 815 million chronically hungry people around the world live in conflict areas, according to U.N. food agencies.

But the resolution will “remain a piece of paper unless there is follow-up,” Jan Egeland, former U.N. Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

Syria, Yemen and South Sudan in particular have erected “systematic obstruction and road blocks” to aid efforts, said Egeland, now secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

In Yemen, years of conflict have left roughly a quarter of its 28 million people severely short of food and at risk of starvation.

Another 6.5 million people in Syria and 5.3 million in South Sudan, both torn by conflict, also have uncertain access to enough food.

Security Council member nations can help conflict-torn regions with which they have a relationship or historic link, Egeland said.

“Too often, we humanitarians speak in abstracts, ‘Someone should act,’” he said. “Instead we need to list those who can and should act.”

The resolution recognises the impact of conflict on food supplies and the need to protect agricultural livelihoods, said Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency and rehabilitation division at the Food and Agriculture Organization.

“The resolution is significant. That it was unanimous is even more significant,” he told the Foundation by email.

Enforcement is critical, said Megan Doherty, senior director at Mercy Corps.

“The crucial next step will need to be practical application – hard diplomacy by the U.N. on those member states who perpetuate conflict that adds to the suffering of millions,” she said.

Reporting by Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

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