European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Famine Prevention

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, 6 million people in South Sudan, 3.2 million in Somalia and 17 million in Yemen. The ongoing food crises are largely referred to as the "Four Famines".

A combination of natural and man-made disasters has affected communities living in these four countries who are no longer able to cover their food needs. In the context of complex emergencies, an integrated response has become essential to prevent starvation: providing peace, security and stability; combining food assistance with livelihoods assistance; and supporting agricultural systems. The EU is committed to tackling the underlying root causes of famine to mitigate the effects of conflicts, and to seek more sustainable, long-lasting solutions. 

The outlook for Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen 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 million, 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; food security needs remain at emergency levels with 3.2 million people facing food shortages.

So far in 2017, European Commission humanitarian aid amounts to €120 million, including a €85 million top-up in response to the drought and famine warning in Somalia.

South Sudan

A child in South Sudan; 270 000 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": three years of conflict have had catastrophic consequences for the population of a country where humanitarian access remains challenging.

The UN declared a localised famine in February 2017, which is now being contained. Overall, 6 million people (about 50% of the entire population) are in food crisis with just over a 45 000 people facing famine. European Commission humanitarian aid amounts to €250 million, including €185 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. A recent cholera outbreak and the intensification of fighting are further compounding an already fragile situation.

For 2017, the European Commission has provided €46 million of life-saving assistance to the Yemeni population.  An additional €116 million was announced on 25 April 2017, including humanitarian and development funds to support resilience and early recovery.  

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