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The number of people facing life-threatening levels of hunger around the world without immediate humanitarian aid, is expected to rise sharply in the coming weeks, the UN said on Wednesday in a new warning of impending famine in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

In Somalia, “hundreds of thousands of people are already facing starvation today with staggering levels of malnutrition expected among children under five,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned. Agriculture (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP).

‘Large-scale starvation deaths’ are increasingly likely In the East African country, UN agencies continued, noting that unless “adequate” aid arrives, analysts expect that by December, “until ‘four children or two adults per 10,000 people will die every day’.

Complex roots

In addition to the emergency already unfolding in Somalia, UN agencies have flagged 18 more deeply related to “hunger hotspots”, whose problems have been created by conflict, drought, uncertainty economy, the COVID pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Humanitarians are particularly worried about Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, where a record 970,000 people “are expected to face catastrophic hunger and starve or starve or risk deteriorating under catastrophic conditions, if no action is taken”. “Said the UN agencies.

That’s 10 times more than six years ago, when only two countries had such severely food-insecure populations, FAO and WFP noted in a new report.

Urgent and large-scale humanitarian action is needed in all these at-risk countries “to save lives and livelihoods” and prevent starvation, UN agencies insisted.

Harsh winter harvest

According to FAO and WFP, acute food insecurity in the world will worsen from October to January.

Besides Somalia, they pointed out that the problem was also serious in the wider Horn of Africa, where the longest drought in more than 40 years is expected to continue, pushing people “to the brink of starvation”.

Successive bad rains destroyed people’s crops and killed their livestock “on which their survival depends”, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, who warned that “people in the poorest countries” were most at risk by acute food security which was “rising rapidly”. and spread across the world.

FAO’s QU calls for a massive increase in aid

Vulnerable communities ‘have yet to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and are suffering the ripple effects of ongoing conflictsin terms of prices, food and fertilizer supply, as well as the climate emergency,” the FAO chief continued.

He insisted that “without a massively scaled up humanitarian response” to support agriculture, “the situation is likely to worsen in many countries in the months to come”.

Echoing that message, WFP Executive Director David Beasley called for immediate action to stop people dying.

We urgently need to help those in grave danger of starvation in Somalia and other hunger hotspots around the world,” he said.

perfect storm of trouble

“This is the third time in 10 years that Somalia has been threatened with a devastating famine,” Beasley continued.

“The 2011 famine was caused by two consecutive failed rainy seasons as well as conflict. Today we are witnessing a perfect storm: probably a fifth consecutive failed rainy season that will see the drought last until 2023.”

In addition to soaring food prices, those most at risk of acute food insecurity also have “very limited opportunities” to earn a living because of the pandemic, the WFP chief explained, as Relief teams prepare for famine in the Somali districts of Baidoa and Burhakaba. in the bay area come october.

Below the “highest alert” countries – identified as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – the joint FAO-WFP report notes that the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel, Sudan and Syria are “very worrying”in addition to newcomers the Central African Republic and Pakistan.

Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi have also been added to the list of hunger hotspot countries, joining Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Obstacles to help

Humanitarian aid is crucial to save lives and prevent starvation, death and the total collapse of livelihoods, insist FAO and WFP, while highlighting chronic access problems caused by “insecurity, administrative and bureaucratic obstacles, movement restrictions and physical barriers” in 11 of the 19 countries. hotspot country.

This includes “the six countries where populations face or are expected to face starvation…or are at risk of deteriorating to catastrophic conditions,” they said.

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