Famine response and prevention in Northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen (6 July 2017)

20 million people at risk of famine, an additional 10 million threatened by famine in the coming months

80% rely on agriculture for their livelihoods

funding to-date: USD 174 million

funding gap: USD 191 million

The world is facing one of the largest food crises in 70 years, with 20 million people in four countries — northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen — at risk of famine. If no action is taken, an additional 10 million will be threatened by famine.

Even though famine has been contained for now in South Sudan, hunger has continued to spread with an increase of 40 percent in the number of people at risk of famine from February to June 2017. An estimated 6 million people – more than half the population – are severely food insecure.

Current levels of food insecurity in the four countries reflect continued underinvestment in agriculture and livelihoods within the wider humanitarian and development fields. Conflict and drought are forcing people to abandon their homes and their lands. As agricultural seasons are repeatedly missed and livelihoods abandoned, the humanitarian caseload builds and the number of people on the brink of famine rises. With approximately 80 percent of the affected populations relying on agriculture for their livelihoods, we must invest now in pulling people back from the brink. Famine often starts in rural areas and must be prevented in rural areas – agriculture cannot be an afterthought.

FAO is on the ground in these countries delivering emergency livelihood assistance to kick-start food production. This assistance includes providing inputs like crop and vegetable seeds, and fishing and dairy kits – which are crucial for providing highly nutritious food. In parts of South Sudan, fishing kits are the only lifeline to food for many families, while in Yemen, dairy kits are helping to provide life-saving milk for children.

To avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the four countries over the coming months, livelihood support needs to be scaled up and income opportunities improved for affected families. Supporting agriculture now is not only investing in food production today, but food security tomorrow.