Urgent Action Needed to Help Millions Facing Famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, North-east Nigeria

Switzerland - Over 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria are facing extreme levels of food insecurity. Severe drought conditions, conflict, insecurity, extreme violence and/or economic degradation, have led to famine in certain areas of each country, putting millions of people’s lives at risk and forcing millions to move in search of food and water.

IOM is working with partners – including other UN agencies, NGOs and governments – to respond with life-saving support in each of the affected countries.

“Inaction could mean the starvation of millions,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies. “IOM and partners need vital resources to continue to help those facing drought, food insecurity and famine. We have an opportunity to stop famine from spreading and affecting more and more people throughout these four countries and others, but only if we move fast,” he added. 

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan on 20 February 2017 due to conflict and insecurity, suggesting that as many as 100,000 people may be at risk. Without access to timely humanitarian aid, famine is likely to spread throughout the country. IOM is working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to biometrically register vulnerable populations in Panyijiar, a county on the verge of famine, to inform humanitarian response planning and distributions for those areas. The number of people facing severe food insecurity is expected to reach 5.5 million in July, the height of the lean season. (The current number is 4.9 million).

In South Sudan, one in every four people has been forced from his or her home due to the crisis that broke out in December 2013. Some 1.89 million are internally displaced in the country and 1.37 million have fled to neighbouring countries. Insecurity and hunger are also forcing people to move in search of protection and assistance. Many people from famine-affected areas have fled to the Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, where IOM provides multi-sector humanitarian aid.

In Somalia, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating and the likelihood of famine is increasing. Food and water shortages, due to drought conditions, are forcing pastoral communities to move in search of water and pasture. Mogadishu and Awdal have received more than 8,000 individuals each from drought-affected areas.

Between 1 January and 26 February 2017, 138,000 individuals have become internally displaced. The number of people moving across the border to Ethiopia, to seek food and services, is also increasing. IOM is responding in Somalia through food, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter and core relief item assistance, as well as scaled up data collection to inform the humanitarian community’s response. IOM is set to launch its appeal for its drought response in Somalia on Friday, 3 March 2017.

Across Yemen, enduring conflict and rapidly deteriorating conditions are pushing millions of displaced Yemenis further into danger. The rapidly deteriorating food crisis has reached famine conditions in some areas of the country. Overall food insecurity has risen sharply, with 17.1 million people currently food insecure, according to the Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment (EFSNA.) An estimated 7.3 million people are severely food insecure.

In 2016, emergency food assistance was vital in preventing much larger food insecurity. Continuing and upscaling this assistance across the country is necessary in order to save millions from severe food insecurity and famine. Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015, some three million have been forced to flee their homes. Worsening conditions are now forcing one million of the displaced to return home, despite continued danger.

Food insecurity is increasing in north-eastern Nigeria, where the ongoing Boko Haram conflict has prevented farming for many and forced nearly two million people to flee their homes, according to IOM. Five million people are in urgent need of food assistance in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, as reported in UN OCHA’s Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) last November. That number has nearly doubled over the past year.

Cadre Harmonisé estimates that 5.8 million people will be in urgent need of food assistance by June 2017; 120,000 will be living in famine-like conditions. Some 55,000 are already living in such conditions in the “worst affected and least accessible areas of Borno and Yobe,” states hit hard by Boko Haram, highlights the HNO. Around 300,000 children will suffer severe acute malnutrition in the Borno alone over the next 12 months, according to the HNO.

Data from IOM Nigeria’s biometric registration has supported WFP’s cash-based transfers programme, to provide relief to families facing food insecurity in the northeast. IOM plans to provide agricultural and livestock support to affected communities, particularly the internally displaced, over the coming months in Borno. IOM is seeking USD 58 million to support displaced people, returnees, and other affected populations in Nigeria’s north-east.

IOM is working to provide life-saving assistance to millions across the affected regions. It needs greater support to meet humanitarian needs and widespread food insecurity in rapidly deteriorating settings.

For further information, please contact Leonard Doyle at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 285 7123, Email: