An Unprecedented Four Famines Threaten the Planet

– April 14, 2017

With the announcement of famine in South Sudan in February, the United Nations formally alerted the planet to the possibility of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis occurring in 2017 — four concurrent famines, something that has never been seen before. “By the time famine is declared, it’s too late, people are dying at a rate that we cannot keep up with,” says Scott Paul, senior humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam America. “We have passed all of the signposts, red flags, and warning signs telling us that death is approaching. Famine means that we have already lost, people are dying.”

The causes of the conditions in the affected areas are complex. Parts of the Horn of Africa are entering their third successive year of crippling drought, causing food and water shortage issues across Somalia. While in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia, numerous conflicts have displaced millions and taxed already strained systems.

For Somalia, this could be the second time famine has been declared there in the last six years, and the third time in the last 26 years. An estimated 500,000 died in the last two while Sudan lost 70,000 during its 1998 famine. All of those pale though when compared to the estimated 3.5 million that died during the famine that accompanied the Second Congo War from 1998–2004.