Famine: Billions of dollars needed or 'millions will die'
Famine in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria require some $4.4 billion in emergency funding, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.
More than 20 million people face starvation in the four countries and action is needed now to avert a humanitarian disaster, Guterres told a news conference at UN headquarters.
"We need $4.4 billion by the end of March to avert a catastrophe," he said.
The United Nations has so far raised $90 million to fund a global response to the four famine alerts, which are unprecedented in recent decades.
On Monday, South Sudan declared a famine in parts of the north, while Somalia has been gripped with famine since 2000.
At least 260,000 people died in the 2011 disaster - half of them children under the age of five, according to the UN World Food Program.
The UN children's agency UNICEF this week said almost 1.4 million children acutely malnourished in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen could die as food shortages worsen in the coming months.
Of the four famine alerts, only one - Somalia - is caused by drought, while the other three stem from conflicts, described as "man-made food crises."
In Yemen, where war has been raging for nearly two years, about 7.3 million people need food aid now, in the "largest food insecurity emergency in the world," said Guterres.
|The Saudi-led coalition waging a military campaign against rebels in Yemen has been accused of imposing a blockade on Yemen - which relies almost entirely on imports.
The Saudi-led coalition waging a military campaign against rebels in Yemen has been accused of imposing a blockade on Yemen - which relies almost entirely on imports.
The UN chief appealed to warring sides to allow aid workers to reach starving civilians.
"The situation is so dire. This is the moment in which international humanitarian law must be respected by all and access must be granted to all areas," said Guterres.
Famine has already been declared in two counties of South Sudan and nearly 5 million people are in desperate need of food.
Guterres, who took over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1, appeared at a news conference with top aid officials who stressed they had contingency plans in place, but needed funds to swing into action.
The appeal came as humanitarian aid groups are already struggling to meet needs in Syria and cope with the global refugee crisis.
On Wednesday, the International Rescue Committee that the famine designation in South Sudan meant that people were already dying and that the international response was too late.
"These crises remain among the least discussed and most underfunded in the world despite their extraordinary scale, scope and man-made origins. This is absurd," said Ciaran Donnelly, international programs director at the IRC.
"The IRC and other aid groups have been raising the alarm of an impending famine in South Sudan for months, and instead of taking the warnings seriously, it fell largely on deaf ears," he added.