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16 Million People at Risk of Dying as Famine grips 3 African Nations


In a small corner of southwestern Somalia, Unsan Shukurow and countless others, are facing a dire situation.

"We are living a horrible drought and a difficult time," said Shukurow, a mother of a malnourished child. "We hardly have enough to get by, let alone to think of our future."

It's 97 degrees, and in a packed UN camp just outside Baidoa, Somalia, Shukurow and hundreds of people are bracing for what one United Nations official has described as "extremely bad" conditions.

"If we don't do much enough to mitigate the situation, we will go to the catastrophe phase," warns Judy Juru Michael, a nutrition officer with UNICEF. "We don't want to reach that phase."

The UN has just declared parts of Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan on the brink of famine.

Steven Lauwerier, a UNICEF representative who works in a camp for displaced Somalis, is witnessing the effects of the famine on a daily basis.

"We have seen this morning as well in a nutritional center all the severely, acutely malnourished babies," Lauwerier warned. "Very, very sad story and we also see the figures going up."

The UN says nearly 16 million people in these three countries are at risk of dying within months.

"If my children survive this drought they will have so few options," Shukurow worries. "Either they can join al-Shabab (Islamic terrorist organization) or they can try to find a way out of this country for a better life."

In northwestern South Sudan, Iman Diing is sitting on the floor with her baby daughter, waiting to see a nurse at a UN-operated malnutrition clinic.

"My child has not eaten since this morning," worries Diing. "Now she is weak and I can feel it. I am nervous. It is better for me to be hungry than my child."

The UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, says the world is facing "the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations" and says the organization needs urgent resources to avert the famine crisis.

"At least $4.4 billion is required to the end of March to avert a catastrophe," said David Orr, a World Food Program spokesperson. "So far the UN has only received 90 million dollars."

Somalia's president has issued an urgent appeal for help.

"We must not leave a stone unturned to avert another famine in Somalia," warned Somalia's president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

The famine crisis is unfolding just as the Trump administration is planning deep cuts to America's foreign aid.

"We are going to propose to reduce foreign aid and we are going to propose to spend that money here," Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, told reporters last week.
Mulvaney said the proposed cuts would include "fairly dramatic reductions in foreign aid" and instead fund America's military budget expansion.

"The overriding message is fairly straightforward: less money spent overseas means more money spent here," said Mulvaney.

The U.S has been the largest donor to the UN and gives more foreign aid to Africa than any other continent.

Back at the displacement camp in Baidoa, Sangabo Madey, mother of five, travelled for two days to reach the UN facility.

"We have really undergone an ordeal because of this drought," said Madey. "We were farmers but the ponds and rivers all dried up. We are facing one of the worst droughts in our lifetime."

Her newest born baby is only 40 days old and joined her in the camp.

"We couldn't feed our children and the drought is threatening our lives because we cannot find food where were we came from so that is why we have come here to try to live."





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