US pledges $639 million in aid to four countries threatened by famine
The US has pledged nearly $639 million in additional humanitarian assistance for people affected by food insecurity and violence in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.
The pledge, made by President Donald Trump during a working session of the G20 summit in Hamburg, provided a "godsend" to the United Nations' World Food Programme, the group's executive director, David Beasley, told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.
"We're facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two," said Beasley, a Republican and former South Carolina governor who was nominated by Trump to head the UN agency fighting hunger worldwide.
The new funding brings the total US humanitarian assistance to over $1.8 billion for these four crises since the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year, USAID said in a statement.
"With this new assistance, the United States is providing additional emergency food and nutrition assistance, life-saving medical care, improved sanitation, emergency shelter and protection for those who have been affected by conflict," the statement read.
According to Rob Jenkins, acting head of the USAID's bureau of democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance, over $191 million of the funding will go to Yemen, $199 million to South Sudan, $121 million to Nigeria and almost $126 million for Somalia.
It will include food and nutrition assistance, life-saving medical care, improved sanitation, and emergency shelter, according to USAID.
The US will also provide safe drinking water and supporting hygiene and health programmes to treat and prevent disease outbreaks for all four crises, including in Yemen, which is experiencing the world's largest outbreak of cholera.
"We're in a dire situation right now," said Jenkins, adding that USAID was also concerned with the situation in southern Ethiopia.
"The situation in southern Ethiopia fortunately does not rise to the dire situation of the other four, but the situation is deteriorating and might very well be catastrophic without additional interventions," he said.
Washington had already provided some $252 million this year to Ethiopia "but the needs continue to grow".
The WFP estimates that 109 million people around the world will need food assistance this year, up from 80 million last year, with 10 of the 13 worst-affected zones stemming from wars and "man-made" crises, Beasley said."We estimated that if we didn't receive the funding we needed immediately that 400,000 to 600,000 children would be dying in the next four months," he said.