Millions of children at ‘imminent’ risk of death as famine hits South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen
A young child sits on the floor in the therapeutic feeding unit of the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Bentiu, South Sudan, which has been hit by famine. Picture: Kate Holt/UNICEF via AP
MILLIONS of people — including 1.4 million children — are at risk of dying as a severe famine takes hold in four countries.
Urgent action must be taken now if the world is to avoid a repeat of previous disasters.
That is the stark warning which has today been issued by UN officials and UNICEF who said the world can no longer afford to ignore starvation.
According to UNICEF almost 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year as famine hits Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The crisis has been declared as the first new famine in six years.
As fears grow that the famine could spread even further, one official has already warned “our worst fears have been realised.”
Millions of South Sudanese have become refugees and their humanitarian needs are overwhelming aid efforts during the country’s civil war, according to the United Nations. Picture: Stephen Wandera/APSource:AP
UNICEF reveal not only is the disaster expected to grow but aid agencies may already be too late.
The four countries don’t border each other, and each have different issues as to why their people are suffering.
In Yemen, where war has been raging for two years, 462,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition.
Two regions of Nigeria in Western Africa have been hit, with around 450,000 children are severely malnourished.
Fews Net, the famine early warning system, said some remote areas of Nigeria’s Borno state have been affected by famine since late last year and the disaster is likely to continue as aid agencies are unable to reach people.
Drought in Somalia has left 185,000 children on the brink of famine but that figure is expected to reach 270,000 in the next few months, UNICEF said.
In South Sudan, the problem is partially man-made — as the displacement of people has meant fertile land has been left unfarmed.
More than 270,000 children in the new country are malnourished and a famine has just been declared in parts of Unity State in the north of the country, where 20,000 children live.
A woman holds her young son who is suffering from dehydration and unable to walk, at an emergency medical facility supported by UNICEF in Kuach, South Sudan. Picture: Kate Holt/UNICEF via APSource:AP
UNICEF director Anthony Lake appealed for quick action. “We can still save many lives,” he said.
UN Security Council ambassadors are due to travel to northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger next month to draw international attention to the humanitarian crisis triggered by the conflict with Boko Haram militants
‘WORST FEARS REALISED’
South Sudan, which has already declared famine in some parts of the country, is mired in an economic crisis due to a devastating civil war.
Independent since 2011, the world’s newest country was engulfed by civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.
The conflict has left tens of thousands dead and more than three million displaced.
Now a bigger crisis looms.
Famine has been declared in two counties of South Sudan, according to an announcement by the South Sudan government and three UN agencies.
A mother pictured with her malnourished child at the clinic run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Aweil, northern Bahr al-Ghazal, South Sudan where nearly half the population is going hungry. Picture: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFPSource:AFP
The official classification of famine highlights the human suffering caused by South Sudan’s three-year civil war and even as it is declared President Salva Kiir’s government is blocking food aid to some areas, according to UN officials.
More than 100,000 people in two counties of Unity state are experiencing famine and there are fears that the famine will spread as an additional 1 million South Sudanese are on the brink of starvation.
Serge Tissot, head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in South Sudan urged immediate action over the crisis.
“Our worst fears have been realised,” he said.
Mr Tissor said the war has disrupted the otherwise fertile country, causing civilians to rely on “whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.”
Agop Manut (11 months), who suffers acute malnutrition and respiratory distress, is just one of many of South Sudan’s malnourished children. Picture: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFPSource:AFP
Roughly 5.5 million people, or about 50 per cent of South Sudan’s population, are expected to be severely food insecure and at risk of death in the coming months.
Almost three-quarters of all households in the country suffer from inadequate food.
‘MANY WILL DIE’
Jeremy Hopkins, head of the UN children’s agency in South Sudan said it urgent food aid reached people immediately.
If food aid does not reach them “many of them will die,” he said.
More than 250,000 children are already severely malnourished Mr Hopkins said, meaning they are at risk of death.
It is not the first time South Sudan has experienced starvation. When it fought for independence from Sudan in 1998, the territory suffered from a famine spurred by civil war.
Anywhere from 70,000 to several hundred thousand people died during that famine.
A boy has his arm measured to see if he is suffering from malnutrition during a nutritional assessment at an emergency medical facility supported by UNICEF in Kuach, South Sudan. Picture: Kate Holt/UNICEF via APSource:AP
However Monday’s declaration of starvation is solely South Sudan’s creation, and a UN official blamed the country’s politicians for the humanitarian crisis.
“This famine is man-made, ”said Joyce Luma, head of the World Food Program in South Sudan. “There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security.”
South Sudan’s widespread hunger has been compounded by an economic crisis as well with the country experiencing severe inflation.
The value of its currency has plummeted 800 per cent in the past year, which has made food unaffordable for many families.