IFRC President addresses High-Level conference on food security and nutrition at the African Union

IFRC President Francesco Rocca addresses the African Union High-Level conference on food security and nutrition in Addis Ababa in October 2022.

IFRC President addresses High-Level conference on food security and nutrition at the African Union in October 2022

Photo: African Union


This speech was delivered at the High-Level conference on food security and nutrition held from 9-10 October in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, co-organized by the IFRC, African Union, African Development Bank and FAO.

Excellencies, Honorable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders and friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and pleasure for me to be here today, and together with all of you to open this important event on the food security crises that we are facing in Africa.

This conference is a unique platform that we, co-conveners, provide to leverage support from the political, humanitarian, and development actors, as well as the international financial institutions.

We are particularly honored by the close cooperation of more than a decade with the African Union Commission. Through you, Your Excellency Commissioner Sacko, I commend the leadership of the African Union and pledge our continued commitment as Federation to strengthen our partnership.

Yet, while we address the complexity of food security and nutrition, we must equally not forget hearing from those at the frontline of risk and in most marginalized and hard-to-reach communities.

I represent the International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies—the world’s largest humanitarian network composed of 192 National Societies constituting 14 million volunteers worldwide—prepared, committed, and ready to respond to disasters and crises at local, national, and regional scale.

Our network brings voices from the frontlines of disasters and solutions communities offer. We, the IFRC, champion localization and national ownership in practice on the ground as a necessity across the world.

Empowering local actors, such as our Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, makes us able to save lives and reach more vulnerable people.

Our volunteers are part of the local communities, they know the needs and how to better address them.

Bringing humanitarian assistance to families who are constantly on the move is one of the greatest challenges aid workers face.

For example, our Red Crescent teams in Somalia work closely with nomadic communities and therefore there is never a question about where to deliver aid. These volunteers come from the communities they serve, and they know how to do it better than anyone else.

As a global network we are deeply concerned by the unfolding food insecurity crisis in Africa, where 800 million people are at threat across the continent and 146 million are in acute need of food.

Hunger is one of the most undignified sufferings of humanity. The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023, and we must all be worried, but most importantly mobilise ourselves to prevent any catastrophes.

There is no more time to waste! Words and political commitment must be translated in urgent actions. We are also mindful that this crisis is not an African Crisis but a global crisis, triggered by three global factors: climate change, the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide impact on commodities and prices of the international armed conflict in Ukraine.

African National Societies, with the support of the IFRC, have not waited for this situation to deteriorate to act.

In 2021, 4.8 million people were supported with cash and food assistance. As the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement we are also aware that we need to scale up our response.

The IFRC has launched a regional emergency appeal for 200 million CHF that covers 23 affected countries and is focused on reaching 7.6 million people in 14 priority countries.

To break the vicious circle of this food crisis, the IFRC will not only invest in crisis response but will work together with the African Union Commission, and other key partners, on advocating for scaling-up efforts to meet the humanitarian imperative across the continent and address the urgent necessity to also invest in addressing the longer-term needs.

We will act in line with AU Agenda 2063, the AU member states response plans, across the continent and the strategic plans of Regional Economic Communities on food security.

For us, this a global crisis. We are mobilizing all our 192 members to support actions led by the African National Societies. Here today, we have 15 African National Society leaders, plus representation from Red Cross Red Crescents partners from other continents.

We are fully engaged, as one team, to ensure that both emergency response and longer-term solutions to the food crisis are in full alignment with government plans and priorities.

As auxiliary to public authorities, our African National Societies are engaged in mobilizing trained volunteers and capabilities and leverage their unique access to and acceptance by affected or at-risk communities. They also contribute to policy frameworks, such as the global zero hunger commitments (SDG1 and SDG2) and the implementation of Paris Agreement ensuring community-centred response for lasting impact.

This crisis can not be handled by one agency or organisation alone, not in the short term nor in the long run. Strong partnerships, including with communities themselves, are the foundation for succeeding in our common goal of achieving Zero Hunger - a big ambition for all of us to deliver against the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063.

Collectively, we are also ready to support African-owned and -led longer term solutions to food insecurity challenges. It is in that spirit that we launched our IFRC Pan-African Zero Hunger Initiative, a partnership platform, to address root-causes and to strengthen community resilience through longer term programming. The aim of this initiative is to reach 25% of the most vulnerable people in Africa by 2030 through local, national, regional, and international partnerships.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

Hunger is a very undignified crisis.

Hunger is not just a food crisis.

It leads to health crisis. And livestock crisis.

It means breaking up neighborhoods and disrupting local communities.

It means population movement.

An emergency response alone will not end these hunger crises.

While addressing urgent needs, it is essential to set the foundation for resilience.

More efforts must be made — by governments, private sectors, and humanitarian and development groups — to support long-term food security, livelihoods, and resilience plans.

Measures must include investments in strengthening grassroots food systems and investment in community actors to sustainably achieve food and economic security.

One of the approaches to consider is anticipatory action for food security, based on forecasts and risk analysis.

We, the IFRC, stand ready to do our part with governments and partners. We believe that this high-level event can be a key moment to strengthen our cooperation and save more lives.

As we all know, responding late will mean immense suffering for millions and millions of people. And to us this is unacceptable!

Thank you.

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