Global Issues, Vol. 3: Famine ravages Africa and Middle East

20+million+people+are+at+risk+for+starvation+in+four+countries+as+governments+fail+to+assist+aid+efforts.+Courtesy+of+bbc.com

20 million people are at risk for starvation in four countries as governments fail to assist aid efforts. Courtesy of bbc.com

The worst humanitarian crisis in the history of the United Nations is gripping South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria as 20 million people face famine and starvation, according to npr.org.
Famines are rare. The three specific criteria constituting a famine are when one of five households in a particular area experience severe food shortages, over a third of the population is acutely malnourished, and at least two out of every 10,000 people die each day, according to The New York Times.
Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) is a scale consisting of five phases which classifies the severity of food crises. Groups involved in determining IPC include United Nations agencies, governments of afflicted countries, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET). In fact, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) created FEWSNET in 1985 to address international food-related emergencies by analyzing climate and satellite information from U.S. agencies, according to npr.org.

Twenty million people in four countries are at risk for starvation as terrorist groups and governments of affected nations block aid efforts. Courtesy of bbc.com

Perhaps the hardest-hit nation amidst this crisis is South Sudan, in which two counties are currently experiencing the highest phase five classification, “catastrophe” level, and two other counties are potentially approaching it in the near future, according to npr.org. Nearly one million people in South Sudan alone are facing imminent death due to starvation, according to time.com.
Even at phase four, almost a third of the population is afflicted with moderate to severe acute malnutrition, the symptoms of which include severe vitamin deficiency and the beginnings of organ failure, according to npr.org. Criteria for a phase five famine are a severe scarcity of food and/or other necessities, as well as evident starvation and death, according to fews.net
According to washingtonpost.com, the United Nations urgently needs $4.4 billion to “avert catastrophe” and provide adequate aid. However, funding is only one obstacle impeding aid. According to economist.com, all four nations experiencing famine are in the midst of war, and the famine crisis has become a political bargaining chip. For instance, the South Sudanese government, in an effort to defeat violent rebel groups, is blocking aid from entering the country in order to keep provisions from reaching its enemies, according to economist.com.
Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and parts of Nigeria are experiencing devastating largely avoidable food crises that terrorism and civil war are exacerbating. Courtesy of economist.com

In South Sudan, Yemen, and Nigeria, the famine crisis is described as “man-made.” This is because the Yemeni government is also hindering aid from reaching certain parts of the country and the Nigerian government is failing to properly distribute aid to regions experiencing violent conflict with terrorist groups. In these nations, violence and war are blocking effective distribution of aid, escalating a food crisis that humanitarian experts consider avoidable, according to economist.com.
In Somalia, the situation is slightly different. Just six years ago, a drought plagued Somalia, causing a catastrophic famine and lack of clean water. Currently, the nation is facing yet another food crisis due to drought, with more than half of the nation’s population in need of food assistance, according to The New York Times. Although political stability in Somalia has improved since 2011, terrorist groups are still a threat, blocking roads and preventing aid from reaching civilians.
The causes of both famines have been primarily weather-related, according to economist.com. Additionally, in Somalia and Nigeria, climate change has contributed to the food crises, according to time.com.
Somalia was the most recent nation to experience famine in 2011. Again, Somalia is experiencing a food crisis due to drought and crop failure. Courtesy of nytimes.com

As the worst humanitarian crisis in 70 years emerges, President Donald J. Trump proposed to cut more than a fourth of the United States’ foreign aid budget in the name of responsible government spending, according to theatlantic.com. This reduction is the second-largest cut to the federal budget. The $30 billion the United States currently spends on foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget.
President Trump has not yet spoken publicly about United States funding for the famine crisis. However, when the White House released the President’s proposed budget, President Trump’s budget director Mr. Mick Mulvaney explained that the budget proposal would “absolutely” eliminate funding for overseas humanitarian aid programs, according to time.com.
This proposed reduction raises concerns that other countries will also contribute less, potentially minimizing international assistance across the board.
“Without significant contributions from the U.S. government, it is less able to catalyze contributions from other donors and meet even minimal life-saving needs,” president of the United States Institute of Peace Nancy Lindborg said, according to time.com.
The United States donates more money to the United Nations than any other country and provides more foreign aid to Africa than to any other continent, according to time.com.
“Nobody can replace the U.S. in terms of funding,” Mr. Yves Daccord, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said, according to washingtonpost.com. “I don’t remember ever seeing such a mix of conflict, drought and extreme hunger.”
-Emily Coster, Opinions Editor and Co-Podcast Editor