Twenty million people in 4 countries - Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - are at an elevated risk of famine, and a further 10 million are in crisis. Famine has already been declared in two counties in South Sudan, affecting 100,000 and with another 1 million on the brink of it.
Some of the most vulnerable people in the hardest-hit areas are already dying from starvation and disease in the four countries.
It is vital to act before famine is declared. In Somalia, half of the 260,000 people who perished between 2010 and 2012 had died before famine was declared in July 2011.
Prevention works. Malnutrition rates have declined where we or partners had sustained access and delivered food and nutritional supplies for children under age five.
Conflict is the principal driver of the crisis, sparking food insecurity, disrupting markets, limiting trade, destroying assets, leaving households without income or means to access food and displacing whole communities. Eight million people have been displaced as a result of these conflicts.
An associated problem is humanitarian access. A key trend is that the most vulnerable, displaced people are frequently the hardest to reach. For example, in March, Rapid Response teams from WFP-UNICEF could not reach an estimated 100,000 people in NE Nigeria, due to insecurity.
Humanitarian agencies need the international community to exert political pressure to secure full and sustained access to all those in need.
In recent history, the world has not faced this number of multiple food security crises, with four countries facing famine all at once.
Famines can be averted. When they occur, they are an acknowledgement of collective failure by everyone: the United Nations, partners, donors and governments. It is much less costly to avert famine, than to respond to it. Additionally, long-term development gains are lost.
Conflict and denial of access prevents aid from reaching many people in need, but a lack of funds also has a major impact on lives, forcing WFP and partners to ‘prioritize’, essentially deciding who among the most vulnerable receives limited aid, and who does not.
An immediate injection of funds is required to avert a catastrophe; otherwise, many thousands of people will die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost and communities destroyed.
WFP is grateful to all donors for their contributions towards efforts to avert or alleviate famine in the four countries. These donors include: the European Commission, USA, UK, Japan, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and UN CERF.