1.4 million children at imminent risk of death as famine looms

Almost 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year, as famine looms in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, UNICEF said today.

“Time is running out for more than a million children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We can still save many lives. The severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made. Our common humanity demands faster action. We must not repeat the tragedy of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa.”

In northeast Nigeria, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition is expected to reach 450,000 this year in the conflict-affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobi. Fews Net, the famine early warning system that monitors food insecurity, said late last year that famine likely occurred in some previously inaccessible areas of Borno states and that it is likely ongoing, and will continue, in other areas which remain beyond humanitarian reach.

In Somalia, drought conditions are threatening an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict. Almost half the population, or 6.2 million people, are facing acute food insecurity and in need of humanitarian assistance. Some 185,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, however, this figure is expected to rise to 270,000 in the next few months.

In South Sudan, a country reeling from conflict, poverty, and insecurity, over 270,000 children are severely malnourished. Famine has just recently been declared in parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country, where 20,000 children live. The total number of food insecure people across the country is expected to rise from 4.9 million to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.

And in Yemen, where a conflict has been raging for the past two years, 462,000 children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a nearly 200 percent increase since 2014.

This year, UNICEF is working with partners to provide therapeutic treatment to 220,000 severely malnourished children in Nigeria, over 200,000 severely malnourished children in South Sudan, more than 200,000 severely malnourished children in Somalia, and 320,000 children in Yemen.

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