South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are currently facing the most severe humanitarian problems are beset by one major common factor. Conflict.

By Celine Fitzgerald (The Irish Times) |

We have heard the warnings before, but the threats posed by the current famine emergency gripping vast areas of East Africa remain as stark and as merciless as they have always been: starvation, disease and death.

I saw the effects of drought first-hand on a recent visit to Ethiopia, where nearly eight million people were in receipt of humanitarian assistance in the first quarter of this year. With the continued failure of rains, that need will only increase as lack of food and water bring disease to the fore.

Ethiopia is not alone, however. Along with 16 million people currently facing starvation across the Horn of Africa, famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and it continues to stalk the people of SomaliaNigeria and Yemen.

Yet, we would be mistaken if we thought that nothing had changed because we have seen hunger on a mass scale before. The reasons for this current global crisis are complex.

The four countries that presently face the most severe humanitarian problems are beset by one major common factor. Conflict.

In South Sudan, the people have endured a prolonged and intractable political struggle since independence was declared in 2011. Today a million face food insecurity, two million have been displaced by the ensuing violence, and the same number have been forced to find refuge in neighboring countries.

The people of Somalia have long been affected by militant aggression, although there are signs recently that the government is starting to restore some semblance of order for the first time in 30 years. Despite this, almost seven million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

In Nigeria, the food crisis in the north-east has its roots in violence. The UN estimates that over five million are in need of assistance, again a number likely to increase in the months ahead as harvests look set to fail due to drought.

Continue reading this story at The Irish Times
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