Millions under threat of starvation in Somalia, Yemen

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The situation in Somalia and Yemen has become so dire that millions of people are under threat of starvation. The International Red Cross says the world has just three months to stop the situation.

Cows and farms have perished the rivers have dried up and there are no wells.

As drought and war wreck crops and block aid across the region, the Red Cross says it needs $300 million to fund its work in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria.

“This is not business as usual. Twenty million people facing starvation is not something that we are dealing with every day and therefore, we really need to act now. If we act now, especially in Yemen and in Somalia, famine can be averted. We need to learn the lessons from 2011 where the response was too slow, too little and 260,000 people died of starvation- more than half of them children under the age of five, so we really need to act now,” says the organisation’s Dominik Stillhart.

In Somalia, some 320,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, and 50,000 of them are so severely malnourished they risk dying without emergency intervention.

The International Red Cross has appealed for $400 million for its operations in the four countries this year, but has received only $100 million so far.

Meanwhile, Unicef says South Sudan’s five million people don’t have access to safe water in a country where an on-going drought has further complicated the situation.

“Why is safe water so important for nutrition? Because if you don’t have safe water, you are liable to catch either a waterborne disease or get diarrhoea. A simple bout of diarrhoea can induce malnutrition really in a matter of days. And if that malnutrition is severe, the child will die,” says Unicef’s South Sudan acting country representative,” Jeremy Hopkins.

While the UN calls for coordinated global efforts to help Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen, agencies says humanitarian aid is slow to reach some of those on brink of catastrophe.

– By Lehana Tsotetsi