Australia urged to do more to fight famine

·2-min read

The Albanese government is being urged to use its first address to the United Nations to deliver funding for famine-stricken regions across the globe.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong is in New York for the 77th meeting of the UN General Assembly, where she will participate in 30 engagements throughout the week.

Senator Wong is expected to deliver Australia's address to the assembly on Friday, after meeting with the foreign ministers of Quad nations, which include the United States, India and Japan.

The war in Ukraine is set to take centre stage.

Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of grain and fertiliser, which have been massively stripped back due to the war.

Grain supply shortages coupled with the impacts of climate change, including severe droughts, have pushed countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Yemen into acute food shortages and to the brink of starvation.

A broad coalition of Australia's leading aid and development organisations is calling for the government to announce a $150 million emergency famine package.

Help Fight Famine spokesman Tim Costello said the package would show Australia won't abandon nations facing starvation.

"With a relatively small investment, we can make a huge difference in saving lives and averting a humanitarian catastrophe like the world has never seen," he said.

"But a failure to act would mean there could be more deaths than from COVID.

"Time has almost run out."

The US will co-host a food and security summit with European and African nations on the sidelines of the UN.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said while Ukraine would feature heavily during the general assembly, it would not be the only matter dealt with.

"Other countries have expressed the concern that as we focus on Ukraine, we are not paying attention to what is happening in other crises around the world," she said.

"That is not the case."

Pat Dodson, Australia's special envoy for reconciliation, is accompanying the foreign minister.

He will speak to Indigenous representatives from other nations about how to achieve a First Nations foreign policy.

Australia will host a roundtable meeting about the topic on Wednesday.

"In Australia, we are currently having a conversation about how we bring First Nations perspectives to the forefront of all that we do and this includes foreign and trade policy," Senator Dodson said.

"First Nations experiences and practices can enrich our diplomacy and strengthen our relationships with other countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region."

The assembly will run until September 24.

with Reuters