Famine ‘largest humanitarian crisis in history of UN’
UN humanitarian chief says 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria face starvation and famine.
Mar 10 2017
The world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations 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 $4.4bn 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 five 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.
“That is three million people more than in January,” he said.
The Arab world’s poorest nation is engulfed in conflict and O’Brien said more than 48,000 people fled fighting just in the past two months.
During his recent visit to Yemen, O’Brien said he met senior leaders of the government and the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, and all promised access for aid.
“Yet all parties to the conflict are arbitrarily denying sustained humanitarian access and politicise aid,” he said, warning if that behaviour does not change now “they must be held accountable for the inevitable famine, unnecessary deaths and associated amplification in suffering that will follow”.