Nearly 1.4 Million Children May Die as "Four-Country" Famine Looms

March 15, 2017

Intractable war and brutal violence — along with climate change, drought and dire poverty — threaten children in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

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As many may have heard via recent op-eds and media stories, including a CBS News 60 Minutes segment, nearly 1.4 million children face imminent death in Africa — and on the Arabian peninsula — as #4famines loom in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

As UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake announced on February 21: "Time is running out for more than a million children. We can still save many lives. The severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made. Our common humanity demands faster action. We must not repeat the tragedy of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa.”

Six years ago, at least 100,000 children died from famine because the world didn’t act soon enough. Now, it's 2017, and famine is looming in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen (#4famines). We cannot let this happen again.

Once more, however, brutal war is the primary culprit, abetted by climate change, drought and grinding poverty. 

Once again, brutal war is the primary culprit.

Kibrom Tesfaselassie, a UNICEF Nutrition Specialist in South Sudan, sums up the man-made disaster that is promoting famine in all four countries: "The biggest challenge is the transportation of big amounts of humanitarian supplies to remote areas ... to serve big numbers of people. We don't always have such capacity. Children in these places have been deprived of basic services because of [war and conflict]." 

Lack of clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene pose as much danger as starvation does.

Near Baidoa, Somalia, at a makeshift camp, a mother named Sangabo Moalin explained: "Even if you can get food, there is no water," and described a "burning" feeling in her body. Deadly waterborne diseases like cholera also spread rapidly through camps, and can kill adults and children quickly through dehydration.  

Lack of clean water and sanitation pose as much danger as starvation does.

According to The New York Times, Ann Thomas, a UNICEF water specialst said: “We underestimated the role of water and its contribution to mortality in the last famine. It gets overshadowed by the food.”

1. Nigeria

In regions of Nigeria plagued by Boko-Haram, for example, 450,000 children will face severe acute malnutrition this year.

2. Somalia

In Somalia, the number of children threatened by starvation will rise to 270,000 in the next few months.  

Tirig, who is six years old, stands with her sister Saua, outside their makeshift shelter in Burao, Somalia. Drought has forced their family to leave home in search of water and food — particularly because the family's goats are now all dead. ©UNICEF/UN056038/Holt

3. South Sudan

In South Sudan — a country reeling from conflict, poverty and insecurity — more than 270,000 children confront the same terrible fate.

Nyankena holds her baby Both Tebg, a 2-month-old child with severe acute malnutrition, at a clinic run by UNICEF partners in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. ©UNICEF/UN053453/Gonzalez Farran

4. Yemen

And, in Yemen, where conflict has been raging for two years, 462,000 children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition — a horrifying 200 per cent increase since 2014.

UNICEF health workers screen a boy for malnutrition in Sa’ada, Yemen. UNICEF had already treated nearly 182,000 children in Yemen for severe acute malnutrition by October 2016. ©UNICEF/UN050302/Al-Zikri

5. UNICEF Responds

This year, UNICEF is working with partners to provide lifesaving, therapeutic treatment to 220,000 severely malnourished children in Nigeria, more than 200,000 severely malnourished children in South Sudan, more than 200,000 severely malnourished children in Somalia, and 320,000 children in Yemen.

UNICEF distributes ready-to-use therapeutic food to children and their families, forced from their homes by violence, who are now living in the Banki camp in Borno State in northeast Nigeria. ©UNICEF/UN029605/Esiebo

Micronutrients and ready-to-use therapeutic food — as well as clean, safe drinking water — are some of UNICEF's key tools in fighting this famine.

But much more must be done to save these children's lives. When famine looms, the faster we deliver aid the fewer children will die.

6. Help Save A Child's Life

Your donation can make a difference right now. Your help is urgently needed to help save children for dying of hunger in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Last month, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Kibrom Tesfaselassie prepared a package of a peanut-based therapeutic paste, for a child suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Thonyor, South Sudan. ©UNICEF/UN055437/Modola

Please act now.


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