The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday that it appealed for about 255 million U.S. dollars to respond to immediate needs of 22 million children in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
In a statement, UNICEF said nearly 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year.
“We learned from Somalia in 2011 that by the time famine was announced, untold numbers of children had already died. That can’t happen again,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes.
Famine was declared a month ago in South Sudan, and will likely be declared soon in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen where fighting has pushed people off their farmland and droughts have destroyed their animals and crops, according to UNICEF.
“And the risk of famine is not limited to these four countries. As violence, hunger and thirst force people to move within and across borders, malnutrition rates will continue to soar in neighbouring countries as well,” warned UNICEF.
It said the crisis is largely human-made, noting that scorched earth tactics by conflicting parties are destroying crops and critical infrastructure like health facilities.
Heavy fighting is forcing farmers to abandon their fields, while also blocking humanitarian those in need, aid agencies have said.
UNICEF said diseases are spreading rapidly in crowded sites for displaced people. And drought is further exacerbating food crises in parts of Africa.
“Children cannot wait for yet another famine declaration — the time for action is now. We must reverse famine where it exists, and prevent famine where it looms,” Fontaine said.