The world has only three to four months to save millions of people in Yemen and Somalia from starvation, as war and drought wreck crops and block deliveries of food and medical care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday.
The aid agency still needs $300 million to deliver emergency assistance to a total of five million people in Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria as well as areas of South Sudan, where famine has already been declared.
“We have probably a window of three to four months to avoid a worst-case scenario,” Dominik Stillhart, the Red Cross’s director of operations worldwide, said at a news briefing in Geneva. “We have kind of a perfect storm now where protracted conflict is overlapped or exacerbated by natural hazard, drought in particular, in the Horn of Africa, which is leading to the situation we are facing now,” he said.
More than 20 million people are facing famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, aid agencies say. Cholera is on the rise in Somalia, where drought is driving people to flee in search of water, said Bruce Orina, the Red Cross’s deputy regional director for Africa. At least 300,000 malnourished children are trapped by fighting in Nigeria.
The Red Cross has received $100 million toward the $400 million needed for its operations in the four countries this year. The United Nations has appealed for about $5.6 billion, bringing total funding needs to $6 billion, Mr. Stillhart said.
The United States, whose average contribution funds about a quarter of Red Cross field operations, has yet to donate, he said. “In 2011 the response was too slow and too late, leading to the starvation of 260,000 people in Somalia alone,” he warned.