The United Nations says the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since it was founded in 1945 with more than 20 million people in four countries at risk of starvation and famine, the UN humanitarian chief has said.
Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council on Friday that “without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease”.
He urged an immediate injection of funds for Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria plus safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid “to avert a catastrophe”.
“To be precise,” O’Brien said, “we need $4.4 billion by July”.
Without a major infusion of money, he said, children will be stunted by severe malnutrition and will not be able to go to school, gains in economic development will be reversed and “livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost”.
UN and food organisations define famine as when more than 30 percent of children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition and mortality rates are two or more deaths per 10,000 people every day, among other criteria.
“Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” O’Brien said. “Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine.”
O’Brien said the largest humanitarian crisis is in Yemen where two-thirds of the population – 18.8 million people – need aid and more than seven million people are hungry and do not know where their next meal will come from.
In northeast Nigeria, a seven-year uprising by the armed group Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes.
In Somalia, which O’Brien also visited, more than half the population – 6.2 million people – need humanitarian assistance and protection, including 2.9 million who are at risk of famine and require immediate help “to save or sustain their lives”.
In south sudan, more than 7.5 million people need aid, up by 1.4 million from last year, and about 3.4 million South Sudanese are displaced by fighting including almost 200,000 who have fled the country since January.