“We stand at a critical point in history”. That is the view of the United Nation’s (UN) top humanitarian official in a briefing to the Security Council on countries experiencing famine or facing the risk of famine in Africa and the Middle East.

Stephen O’Brien described Yemen as the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the situation in South Sudan as the worst it’s ever been as over 20 million people face starvation and hunger.

Distressing situations exist in both Somalia and the Lake Chad Basin, particularly North East Nigeria. Northern Kenya is also in the grips of a terrible drought adding to extreme needs that already exist in the region.

“Dire” was the description of the situation in all five regions and without a major international response, the situations will deteriorate and people will inevitably die on a massive scale.

O’Brien says, “We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will duffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost.”

Eighteen point eight million people need assistant in Yemen, that is two–thirds of the population. 10.7 million are at risk in the Lake Chad Basin including seven million who are food insecure.

Seven point five million in South Sudan need aid; 6.2 million in Somalia while drought in Northern Kenya has made almost 3 million people food insecure.

All four countries have one thing in common, conflict

He says,” All four countries have one thing in common, conflict. This means that we – you – have the possibility to prevent and end further misery and suffering. The UN and its partners are ready to scale up. But we need the access and the funds to do more. It is all preventable. It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming humanitarian catastrophes.”

Last month the UN appealed for 5.6 billion dollars for the four neediest countries while an additional appeal of 200 million dollars for Kenya is about to be launched. In Yemen alone, where 2.1 billion is needed, only 6% of funding has been received so far.

O’Brien adds, “Already, the humanitarian suffering that we see in Yemen today is caused by the parties and proxies and if they don’t change their behaviour now, they must be held accountable for the inevitable famine, unnecessary deaths and associated amplification in suffering that will follow.”

Sentiments that could be echoed in all four countries where conflicts dominate the geo political landscape.

– By Sherwin Bryce-Pease, New York