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Famine - Four countries face risk of famine

The EU has allocated €60 million for Nigeria to fight food insecurity. Photo: Anouk Delafortrie.

The world is facing one of its largest humanitarian crises since 1945 with millions of people facing the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

This number is expected to further increase, according to a report by the Global Network against Food Crises. The report highlights a grim situation of almost 30 million people in food crises across the four countries: 5.1 million in northeast Nigeria, 4.9 million people in South Sudan, 2.9 million in Somalia and 17 million in Yemen. The ongoing food crises are largely referred to as the "Four Famines".

The outlook for these countries is dire and the European Commission is scaling up its response.


The north of Nigeria is facing the worst humanitarian crisis on the African continent according to the UN and continues to have some of the worst development indicators in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 60% of the population live below the poverty threshold. This has been aggravated by a history of violence and instability, in particular the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast where 5.1 million people are currently facing critical food insecurity situations. Of this number, an estimated 55 000 people are experiencing famine-like conditions in the worst affected and least accessible areas; Borno state is one of these areas.

For 2017, the allocation of EU humanitarian aid for the Lake Chad region amounts to about €105, of which nearly €60 million has been allocated for Nigeria.


A doctor weighs a child. It is estimated that 1 million children in Somalia will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2017. Photo: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/UNICEF.

Changing climatic conditions and successive failed rains during the past three years are triggering a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions in the Horn of Africa. The negative effects of the droughts have further intensified in 2017. The situation is particularly desperate in Somalia; a pre-famine alert was issued in February 2017 and 2.9 million people are expected to face food crises.

So far in 2017, European Commission humanitarian aid amounts to €79.39 million, including a €55 top-up in response to the drought and famine warning in Somalia.

South Sudan

A child in South Sudan; 250 000 children are severely malnourished. Photo: UNICEF/Albert Gonzalez Farran

As the youngest and one of the least developed countries in the world, South Sudan suffers from decades of conflict and neglect, corruption and mismanagement. South Sudan is the very definition of a "man-made crisis", where three years of conflict have had catastrophic consequences for its population.

The UN declared a localised famine in February 2017. Overall, 4.9 million people (about 42% of the entire population) are in food crisis with just over a 100 000 people facing famine. European Commission humanitarian aid amounts to €182 million including €70 million for South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.


In Yemen, 17 million people are food insecure. Photo: UNICEF.

Yemen is the single largest food insecurity emergency in the world. Almost 19 million people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. 17 million people are facing food crises, of which 6.8 million are severely food insecure. As a result of conflict, food imports, food production, and functioning markets have decreased resulting in reduced food availability and increased prices.

For 2017, the European Commission has provided €46 million of life-saving assistance to the Yemeni population.  An additional €70 million is expected to be mobilised in development aid in 2017 to support resilience and early recovery, and further commitments of aid are foreseen later throughout the year.  

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