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Africa has worst hunger crisis in 70 years amid budget cuts

  • COURTESY CARITAS INTERNATIONALIS

    On Sunday, Rosa Lyo ate fruit at a camp for those who were previously displaced by fighting, near a church in Rajaf, South Sudan. More than 5 million people in South Sudan do not have access to safe, clean water, compounding the problems of famine and civil war, according to UNICEF.

JOHANNESBURG >> Africa faces the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people facing starvation, and any cut in funding to humanitarian agencies working in famine-affected areas will cause untold suffering, a spokesman for the World Food Program said in Johannesburg Thursday, responding to questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $10 billion in foreign aid.

“Any cuts at this time are extremely significant, not just for us but for any U.N. agencies and any aid organization,” said David Orr, WFP’s Africa spokesman, at a media briefing in Johannesburg. “With the magnitude of needs at the moment is it vital that we continue with a high level of assistance.”

The current hunger crisis is in three African countries, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, as well as nearby Yemen.

The U.S. is WFP’s largest donor and was one of the organization’s founders. Last year it contributed more than $2 billion, representing about 24 percent of WFP’s total budget, Orr said.

U.N. operations in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria will require more than $5.6 billion this year, he said. At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a catastrophe, he said, but so far the U.N. has only received $90 million.

“The more dramatic cuts in any aid budgets, the more the number of debts, the more suffering there is going to be,” Orr said.

“We have a situation where famine has been declared in two counties in Unity state in South Sudan. That means there are already people dying in those places. This has been caused by a combination of factors including conflict, which prevents access. Humanitarian intervention is very difficult. Huge numbers of people are displaced,” Orr said. “Now famine is threatening in other parts of South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.”

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