Two United Nations agencies are warning that South Sudan and three other countries could experience famine in the next three months if no urgent action is taken to avert the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
The other countries are Burkina Faso in West Africa’s Sahel region, northeastern Nigeria, and Yemen.
The Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots – issued Friday by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN World Food Programme – describes a toxic combination of conflict, economic decline, climate extremes, and the COVID-19 pandemic that is driving people further into the emergency phase of food insecurity.
Parts of the population in the four hotspots of highest concern are already experiencing a critical hunger situation, with the report warning that escalations in conflict as well as a further reduction in humanitarian access could lead to a risk of famine.
But these four countries are far from being the only red flag on a world map that shows that acute food insecurity levels are reaching new highs globally, driven by a combination of factors, the report notes.
Another 16 countries are at high risk of rising levels of acute hunger.
The agencies said urgent action is needed to avoid a major emergency – or series of emergencies – in three to six months.
FAO’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience, Dominique Burgeon, said the report is a clear call to urgent action.
“We are deeply concerned about the combined impact of several crises which are eroding people’s ability to produce and access food, leaving them more and more at risk of the most extreme hunger,” Burgeon said.
He said there is a need to ensure these populations have food and the means to produce food and improve their livelihoods to prevent a worst-case scenario.
Meanwhile, WFP’s Director of Emergencies, Margot van der Velden, says if the world waits for famine to be first declared, it means some people will die of hunger.
Famine was first declared in parts of South Sudan in 2017 before it was shortly averted in 2018 due to sustained humanitarian assistance.
But this year, unprecedented flooding has already affected an estimated 800,000 people since July.
Over 360,000 of them have been displaced from their homes, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
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