The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued an appeal for $400 million in humanitarian aid to address famine in northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.
ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart warned that a massive expansion of aid was needed to provide essential assistance to five million vulnerable people and avert a downward spiral in the four countries. In addition to the ICRC's appeal, local Red Cross and Red Crescent partners — which have been responding to the emergency since February — will need at least another $100 million to fund their operations. Earlier this year, the United Nations made an official declaration of famine in South Sudan and called for $4.4 billion in famine aid for the four countries, where more than twenty million people face hunger and starvation.
There is still time to avert a worst-case scenario in Somalia and Yemen if urgent action is taken now, said Stillhart, who noted the need to address the root causes of the crisis. While Somalia and Yemen are experiencing both drought and conflict, the crises in South Sudan and northeast Nigeria are man-made disasters caused by armed conflict.
"No amount of aid money will overcome political obstructionism and a failure to abide by the norms of warfare," said Stillhart. "Ultimately, in these countries, famine is a by-product. The root cause is the presence of long-term, intractable conflict. It's the conflict that renders agricultural land unusable, that forces people to flee their homes, and that destroys hospitals and other vital services."
"I would say we have probably a window of three months during which large amounts of aid need to be distributed in order to avoid a worst-case scenario," Stillhart told Voice of America. "It is really absolutely necessary that there is a strong mobilization of the donor community."