United Nations Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien says the world is facing the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945. Over 20 million people are facing starvation and famine in four countries: Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and North-Eastern Nigeria. In an address to the UN Security Council, O’Brien called for immediate financial assistance to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe from further developing.
“To be precise, we need $4.4 billion by July,” O’Brien told the Security Council. He also revealed that the UN had only received $90 million in 2017 so far, despite generous pledges.
Adults and children in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and North-Eastern Nigeria face severe malnutrition. Without an immediate injection of funds, sufficient aid cannot be provided. O’Brien also raised the concern that the growth of many children will be stunted and they will not be able to go to school. As a result, “livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost.”
Engulfed in a conflict between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Shiite Houthi rebels, some two-thirds of Yemen’s population require urgent food aid. According to ABC, this figure represents around 18.8 million people.
However, despite this, all parties to the conflict have been arbitrarily denying sustained humanitarian access and have politicized aid. O’Brien warned that if that behaviour does not change, those parties will be held accountable for the inevitable famine and for the unnecessary deaths and suffering that will follow.
In South Sudan, more than 7.5 million people require aid. O’Brien urged rapid humanitarian aid for the estimated 1 million children who are acutely malnourished, particularly the 270,000 children who face the risk of death if assistance is not delivered in time.
South Sudan’s continued fighting since 2013, lack of rule of law and under-development have all contributed to the humanitarian crisis and hindered the delivery of humanitarian and food aid.
Approximately 6.2 million people require humanitarian assistance in Somalia, 2.9 million of which require immediate help to prevent the famine. According to the BBC, at the start of this month, 110 people died in just one region in a 48-hour period.
Somalia’s last famine was declared just six years ago, where approximately 260,000 people died from starvation. However, continuing attacks by Islamist militant group Al-Shabab, the lack of rule of law and underdevelopment is driving the country to the brink of another famine.
In North-Eastern Nigeria, the UN has estimated that over 75,000 children are at risk of starving to death and 7.1 million more Nigerians are “severely food insecure.”
Aid for those in need has been severely hampered by seven years of conflict due to the uprising of extremist group, Boko Haram. ABC reports that over 20,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks, and more than 2 million people have been driven from their homes. Displacement further creates “ever more instability across entire regions,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien said that if famine continues in these countries, many lives will be at stake, community resilience will deteriorate and economic development will be reversed. “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.”