G7 Must Also Fight Famine | Opinion

The G7 summit this weekend in the United Kingdom must not only tackle a global pandemic, but also famine. Both crises impact the other. Severe food shortages are threatening many nations and the G7 must take action to help.

President Joe Biden will need to show leadership at the summit, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

The United Nations is warning that more than 34 million people are one step away from starvation. And millions more are on the brink. Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, the Sahel region of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ethiopia are some of the regions suffering extreme hunger.

"We are seeing a catastrophe unfold before our very eyes. Famine – driven by conflict, and fueled by climate shocks and the COVID-19 hunger pandemic – is knocking on the door for millions of families," said David Beasley, the director of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP).

The World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, CARE and other charities need more funding to feed the hungry. Additional resources are needed for infant feeding, school meals and family rations to save lives.

G7 summit leaders
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President of the European Council Charles Michel, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pose for the leaders official welcome and photo during the G7 summit In Carbis Bay, on June 11, 2021. Jonny Weeks - WPA Pool / Getty Images

Nations threatened by famine are also seeing the spread of the coronavirus. Any relief plan requires food for the hungry and vaccines to stop COVID-19. Failure to stop the spread of the virus threatens lives globally and encourages the virus to mutate and become stronger. Having large populations suffering with hunger and malnutrition will lessen the effect of any global vaccination program.

The G7 must act to secure enough funding for hunger relief, but also work to ensure humanitarian access. Yemen, the Tigray region of Ethiopia, Syria and South Sudan are among those nations where diplomacy is needed to stop conflict preventing humanitarian aid.

The civil war in Yemen has been made worse by arms sales to the region. The G7 must commit to diplomacy to stop the war there and prevent weapons sales to combatants.

In the Tigray region of Ethiopia, conflict has led to near famine in many villages and the WFP is struggling with low funding and gaining access to assist.

Ethiopia food insecurity
Over 5.5 million people grapple with high levels of acute food insecurity in Ethiopia's Tigray, and neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, which host a large number of internally displaced persons from Tigray. Michael Tewelde/FAO

"Our teams tell me that in 53 villages they visited, 50 percent of mothers and almost a quarter of children they've been screening are malnourished. Millions of people urgently need food. Without it, many of them will die," said Beasley.

In Syria, the U.N. Security Council must renew a resolution allowing cross border humanitarian deliveries to war victims. A group of aid agencies signed a letter to the U.N. stating "a failure to renew would put access to food assistance for more than 1 million people at stake, as well as COVID-19 vaccinations, critical medical supplies, and humanitarian assistance for many more."

There is a lot the G7 must coordinate in terms of pandemic and famine relief. But it's only fitting that the summit is being held in the U.K. where some of the greatest acts of international cooperation were launched including the D-Day invasion by the Allies in World War II. Famine relief efforts for the Netherlands was launched from air fields in the U.K. at the end of the war.

The leaders at the summit must recognize their power to save children from deadly malnutrition in famine-affected countries. Kids are being forced to drop out of school and search desperately for food. Yet if the G7 committed to school meals for these children, you could save their lives and give them hope for a future.

The G7 must boost famine relief at the summit while it also ramps up vaccine distribution to stop the coronavirus.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by The Washington Post, Newsweek, History News Network, Cleveland Plain Dealer and many other news outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.