Published: Sun, March 12, 2017
Life&Culture | By Ted Wilson

World facing 'unprecedented' humanitarian crisis, says United Nations chief

World facing 'unprecedented' humanitarian crisis, says United Nations chief

Stephen O'Brien told the UN Security Council that over 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria are facing starvation and famine.

"We stand at a critical point in history".

According to The Guardian, UN and food organisations define starvation as when more than 30 per cent of children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition and mortality rates are two or more deaths per 10,000 people every day, among other criteria. Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

Aid organizations are trying to "speed up" the delivery of resources in to the countries to provide clean water, nutrition, medical supplies and hygiene training, with the goal of getting people back on their feet and children back into school.

Without the money, he said, children will be stunted by severe malnutrition, gains in economic development will be reversed and "livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost". In early March, about 110 people died in a two-day period.

During his recent visit to Yemen, O'Brien said he met senior leaders of the government and the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, and all promised access for aid. The situation in Ganyiel is dire, with thousands of people having fled to the area from famine-stricken Leer and Mayendit counties.

He noted that despite assurances from all parties that he would obtain safe passage to the flashpoint city of Taiz, he was in fact denied access and came under gunfire after retreating to a short distance away.

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Fighting on the ground and air strikes on areas held by Houthi rebels, targeted by a Saudi-led coalition backed by the United States and UK, have displaced more than three million people.

He announced that a ministerial-level pledging event for Yemen will take place in Geneva on April 25, to be chaired by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.

Starvation was officially declared on February 20 in South Sudan, impacting approximately 100,000 people.

In total, more than 7.5 million people there need aid. In Yemen, two-thirds of the population, or some 18.8 million people, are in need of assistance as Saudi Arabia and Iran continue a proxy war on the country.

According to the United Nations, a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from a preventable disease, while half-a-million children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition. They have lost their livestock, water sources have dried up and they have nothing left to survive on, ' Mr O'Brien said.

On-going conflicts and civil insecurity are further intensifying the food insecurity of millions of people across the region, and there is already widespread displacement and other cross-border spill over. Poor governance and climate change have also been powerful contributors to the crisis.

Nigeria has been fighting against the terrorist militant organization Boko Haram, which has killed 15,000, and displaced more than 2 million Nigerians from their homes.

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