Humanitarian crisis: famine hits Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria

The UN has declared that the world is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria are experiencing starvation and famine.

Stephen O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, announced that 4.4 billion dollars are needed by July to prevent a ‘catastrophe.’ Affected areas are awaiting immediate global financial aid, while it is still uncertain how such a sum will be obtained.

Where is it happening?

The four most affected countries are Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria. Severe and long droughts and ongoing military conflicts have destroyed crops, enabled the spread of diseases and caused famine. Yemen is said to be experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis yet, while some areas of Somalia have not seen rain in three years.


Source: USAIM,   Image: Google Earth   Production: Asya Gadzheva

Why is it happening?

The situation in these four countries is getting more serious by the day, with disastrous consequences for the wellbeing of the population. It is a state of emergency and crisis.

The World Food Programme defines emergencies as ‘urgent situations in which there is clear evidence that an event or series of events has occurred which causes human suffering or imminently threatens human lives or livelihoods and which the government concerned has not the means to remedy.’

Equally, the World Health Organization defines crisis as ‘a situation that is perceived as difficult. Its greatest value is that it implies the possibility of an insidious process that cannot be defined in time, and that even spatially can recognize different levels of intensity.’

The livelihood and wellbeing of millions is threatened by continuous droughts, ongoing military conflicts, occupations, famine and disease.

The UN defines famine as when 20 per cent of the population has an intake of less than 2100 kilocalories of food available per day, more than 30 per cent of children under the age of five are malnourished and mortality rates of two or more deaths in every 10,000 people per day are reached.



Infographic: Asya Gadzheva

In Yemen, nearly 19 million people are at risk. The country is going through its worst crisis yet, as the severe famine is worsening and the war between Hoathi rebels and the government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, drags on. Humanitarian help, even if provided, often cannot reach those in need. Disease is commonplace among Yemenis and medicine is scarce.

Humanitarian aid is prevented by ongoing fighting, underdevelopment and lack of proper infrastructure and fuel.

Being the newest nation in the world, South Sudan is just emerging from a three-year civil war. Continuous fighting and the consequences of the drought have put the population on the brink of existence.

7.5 million people are in need of immediate aid, as the cholera outbreak, which started in 2016, has spread to more locations. 40 per cent of South Sudan’s population lacks a sustainable food source, agriculture and regular nutrition.

Humanitarian aid is prevented by ongoing conflicts in the area and under-development. The probability of the population receiving any humanitarian aid is decreasing due to attacks on humanitarian convoys either by the government of rebel forces.

  • A Tweet by Manchester Labour councillor Kevin Peel emphasises the importance of an immediate and adequate international reaction.

Somalia suffered a famine in 2011, when close to 260,000 people died. Now, as much as half the population needs immediate humanitarian assistance. As well as profound malnourishment, people suffer severe dehydration and disease.

The El Nino weather phenomenon, which brings warm ocean water along the Pacific, is accounted for the drought and lack of water in Somalia. It influences fishing and agriculture and has resulted in a widespread destruction of crops.

Humanitarian aid is prevented by ongoing attacks by Islamist military group al-Shabab and under-development.

  • António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, shared his concern about the horror unfolding in Somalia on Twitter.

Northeast Nigeria has long been a warzone. Attacks by Islamic extremist group Boko Huram have resulted in an ever increasing death rate. 2.6 million people have been forced out of their homes and are experiencing severe malnutrition. The UN described the man-made crisis in Nigeria as ‘the greatest crisis on the continent.’

Humanitarian aid is prevented by continuing Boko Huram attacks, inability for the aid to reach occupied by the extremist group areas and cases of aid theft.

  • The disaster is essentially man-made, according to Tooting councillor Susan John-Richards.

Where did we go wrong?

The signs, sounding the alarm for a rising and worsening global humanitarian crisis, have been present for a long time but have suffered neglect. The international community has been slow to recognise and react towards prevention of such disasters.

There has been a sufficient gap in financing, where the money is either lacking or cannot be released soon enough. The 4.4 billion dollars demanded by Mr O’Brien might be too little too late and there is no guarantee whatsoever that they will be provided at all.

How can you help?

The BBC answered the overwhelming readership response to the coverage of the crisis with a breakdown of the different ways in which the individual member of the public can make a contribution.

Charity organisations such as The Red Cross, Unicef and Oxfam encourage people to donate money, send items that are needed or volunteer in many of the charity shops that have opened in London and across the country. They also plea for an increased awareness about the global humanitarian crisis that is unfolding and the seriousness of its consequences for millions of innocent people.

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