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UN: World Faces Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A woman carries a sack of food distributed in Ganyiel, Panyijiar county, in South Sudan (AFP)

New York – United Nations warned that the world is heading towards the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, with more than 20 million people facing starvation and famine in four countries.

Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are all facing armed struggles and were mentioned in the UN’s announcement that was revealed by the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Stephen O’Brien.

O’Brien, who visited earlier this month Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, called Friday for an urgent mobilization of funds worth $4.4 billion by July to “avert a catastrophe.”

“Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” O’Brien said. “Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine,” he added.

O’Brien warned that if the money wasn’t provided, many people will predictably die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost and political gains that have been hard-won over the last few years will be reversed.

According to O’Brien, without global efforts many people will simply starve to death or suffer and die from disease.

“Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost,” he alerted.

He called Yemen “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” with two thirds of the population, or 18.8 million people, three million more than in January, are in need of assistance and more than seven million with no regular access to food.

The conflict in Yemen resulted in over 7,400 people dead and 40,000 wounded since March 2015, according to UN figures.

Recent agreements between both parties in Yemen had allowed humanitarian aids to reach 4.9 million persons last month.

During his recent visit to Yemen, O’Brien said he met senior leaders of both sides of the conflict and all promised access for aid.

“Yet all parties to the conflict are arbitrarily denying sustained humanitarian access and politicize aid,” he said.

He warned if that behavior did not change they must be held accountable for the inevitable famine, unnecessary deaths and associated amplification in suffering that will follow.

UN humanitarian chief also visited South Sudan where he said the situation is “worse than it has ever been” because of the country’s three-year civil war.

He described the famine in South Sudan as “man-made” saying that parties of the conflict “are parties to the famine, as are those not intervening to make the violence stop.”

According to O’Brien, more than 7.5 million people need aid, up by 1.4 million from last year, and about 3.4 million South Sudanese are displaced by fighting including almost 200,000 who have fled the country since January.

In Somalia, which O’Brien also visited, more than half the population, 6.2 million people, need humanitarian assistance and protection, including 2.9 million who are at risk of famine and require immediate help “to save or sustain their lives.”

He warned that close to one million children under the age of five would be acutely malnourished this year.

“What I saw and heard during my visit to Somalia was distressing — women and children walk for weeks in search of food and water. They have lost their livestock, water sources have dried up and they have nothing left to survive on,” O’Brien said.

He pointed out that most people who have lost everything are now moving to urban centers.

In north-east Nigeria, which is witnessing a rebellion since 2009 by the extremist group Boko Haram, 10.7 million people need humanitarian aid, including 7.1 million people who are “severely food-insecure.”

A UN humanitarian coordinator said last month that malnutrition in the north-east is so pronounced that some adults are too weak to walk and some communities have lost all their toddlers.

During Oslo meeting about Nigeria and Chad Lake last month, $672 million donations were granted to help the countries. But the funds announced are still less than needed, $1.5 billion.