MS Risk Blog

UN Warns of Risk of Mass Starvation Rapidly Increasing in Africa and Yemen

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The United Nations refugee agency warned this month that the risk of mass starvation in four countries – northeastern Nigeria, Somali, South Sudan and Yemen – is rapidly increasing due to drought and conflict, noting that some twenty million people live in hard-hit areas where harvests have failed and malnutrition rates are increasing, particularly amongst young children.

The UN declared a famine in some areas of South Sudan back in February, with UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards now warning that “a further 1 million people are now on the brink of famine.” Speaking at a news briefing, Edwards disclosed, “we are raising our alarm level further by today warning that the risk of mass deaths from starvation among populations in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Nigeria is growing,” adding “this really is an absolutely critical situation that is rapidly unfolding across a large swathe of Africa from west to east.” UNHCR has reported that people are on the run within their countries and there are also greater numbers of South Sudanese refugees who are fleeing to Sudan and Uganda, with Edwards noting that a preventable humanitarian catastrophe, possible worse than that of 2011 when 260,000 people died of famine in the Horn of Africa, “is fast becoming an inevitability.”

UNHCR is increasing its operations however it has been affected by a severe funding shortfall, with some of the country programmes only funded at between 3 and 11 percent. According to Jens Laerke of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), overall the Un has appealed for US $4.4 billion for the four countries however it has received less than US $984 million, or 21 percent, to date.