Fighting Famine


As four countries continue to teeter on the brink of famine, 20 million people in parts of Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen facing unprecedented levels of hunger. It is a global crisis which is stretching the global humanitarian community like never before. 

Lack of funding and lack of access remain the two key obstacles in tackling this crisis. Where the two have been simultaneously overcome, famine has been prevented – and in the case of South Sudan, famine was averted due to an intensive emergency response.

Working together, we can push back famine, but only if access is granted. The root cause of looming famine lies in the ongoing conflicts taking place in each of the affected countries. The longer the fighting goes on, the greater the hunger crisis will become. 

As well as advocating for access, and raising funds, famine response requires more than food aid. Too often malnourished children and adults die not from hunger but from disease or dehydration. With cholera outbreaks in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, health, sanitation and clean water are also vital to save lives.

Women carrying WFP food bags



• On 25 January 2017, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), issued a global alert warning that northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen faced a credible risk of famine.

• 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria are living on the brink of famine. In addition, 10 million people are in crisis and struggle to access the food needed to feed themselves and their families. 

• Around 5.7 million children are dangerously malnourished and 1.4 million are severely malnourished. It is estimated that 600,000 are at risk of dying in the coming months unless they receive immediate treatment and care. 

• Conflict drives 80% of humanitarian needs globally and is the main driver of famine – especially in South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.

• In South Sudan, famine has been averted in Leer and Mayendit counties as a result of large scale, multi-sector humanitarian assistance. However, the situation remains absolutely critical and an estimated 1.7 million people in South Sudan are experiencing dangerous and possible deadly levels of hunger and malnutrition.

• South Sudan’s rainy season began in May – making it more difficult for humanitarian assistance to reach people due to roads being impassable. 

• In Somalia, the effects of drought are intensifying and it is expected that a much larger proportion of the population will be affected as it comes after three consecutive seasons of poor rainfall.

• In Yemen, where 90 per cent of food is imported, the main obstacle to reaching people in the conflict and lack of access.

• Across the four countries, warring parties are ignoring their obligation under International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians and provide humanitarian access. 

Please find resources below to promote key messages and information relating to the four famines.

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