MEDIA RELEASE: Famine must remain a priority of aid effort

May 10, 2023

The 2023-24 Federal Budget is a missed opportunity for Australia to devote much needed additional resources to the global hunger crisis, and Help Fight Famine intends to press the case for further relief efforts to be funded from the Humanitarian Emergency Fund.


Australia has so far allocated an additional $40 million to famine relief, which came from last year’s Budget and was warmly welcomed by the campaign. Since then the global hunger crisis has worsened. The recent Global Report on Food Crises led by the Food Security Information Network reported that 258 million people across 58 countries are now experiencing acute hunger, meaning their life or livelihood is in danger. That is an additional 65 million people since last year.


In the Horn of Africa, the situation is especially dire. According to the World Food Programme, 90 per cent of the Somalian population is battling “insufficient food consumption.” Among children under five, 11.8 per cent are suffering acute malnutrition and 27.8 per cent have chronic malnutrition.  


The sudden onset of conflict in Sudan in April 2023, the mass movement of people fleeing that conflict and risk of disruption to agriculture in the Nile River are likely to make this situation even more dire. Australia’s initial contribution of $6 million to this crisis is a welcomed start.


Help Fight Famine will continue pressing the case for Australia to invest in famine relief. It is also committed to working with the Government on its forthcoming International Development Strategy to prioritise food security.

Key points in this Budget include: 

  • An allocation of $4.77 billion in ODA in 2023-24. This is an increase of $117.3 million since the October Budget, part of an overall increase of $191.8 million over the next four years. The Government has also committed to sequenced increases of 2.5 percent per year over the longer term from 2026-27 onwards.
  • The humanitarian assistance component of Australia’s ODA budget has seen a modest increase of $9m in 2023-24, focused predominantly on disaster risk reduction in the Pacific ($8.8m) and an additional $0.3m for protracted crises.

However, there are no substantial changes to the overall budget to prepare for humanitarian challenges ahead, such as food insecurity and displacement. In fact, Sub- Saharan Africa, and the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will all see decreases in their allocations despite rapidly worsening food insecurity and poverty crises.

The Humanitarian Emergency Fund, the key source of funding for the Australian Government to respond to humanitarian needs as they emerge, remains at $150m and has not increased in the last 5 years despite a significant rise in global humanitarian need.

“Help Fight Famine acknowledges that the Albanese Government has presided over an increase in the aid budget since it came to office,” said campaign spokesperson, Reverend Tim Costello. “A specific, additional commitment to prevent famine would have made sense at this Budget. We will push to keep it at the forefront of humanitarian priorities.”


Polling released by Help Fight Famine in March found strong and growing support for Australia’s aid effort. The YouGov survey found that even with a raging cost of living crisis, a growing majority of Australian voters, 60 percent, support the Australian government funding overseas aid to developing countries. That increased from 52 per cent in 2019 and 57 per cent in 2021. 


Oxfam Australia CEO Lyn Morgain said Australians understood the need to invest in a fairer world.


“The global hunger crisis is a stark example of the increasingly complex and interconnected challenges we face. Climate change is further exacerbating disasters such as droughts and cyclones with those who have contributed the least to the problem bearing the brunt of the devastating impacts. Combined with shocks such as the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on global food supply and the pandemic, the consequences are life-threatening for millions of people. In turn, this has knock-on effects for social and economic development. Child marriage is skyrocketing in Ethiopia, for example and millions of children in East Africa are missing out on school.


“Australia’s investment in aid helps prevent these interconnected crises from sliding into full-blown catastrophes. Investing in a fairer and safer world is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.”

“The aid and humanitarian sector is united in its desire to see the Albanese Government treat the food insecurity crisis with the gravity it deserves, and consequently elevate it in the minds of Australians,” said Marc Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council For International Development. 

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