Over 20 million people in four countries ‘going hungry’: UN chief

Over 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are going hungry and facing devastating levels of food insecurity, the UN chief said on Wednesday.

Antonio Guterres was speaking at a press conference aimed at drawing the world's attention to the scale of humanitarian crises unfolding in the four countries.

He was joined by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien; Helen Clark, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin.

Jocelyne Sambira has the details.

Famine is already a reality in South Sudan, the Secretary-General warned in his address to reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

Nearly five million people there desperately need food, he said.

An equal number of people in north-east Nigeria are also facing serious food shortages, according to UN estimates.

In Somalia, almost a million children under five will be acutely malnourished.

Meanwhile, Yemen is currently dealing with the largest food security emergency in the world.

The world must avoid a catastrophe, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed.

"These four crises are very different, but they have one thing in common. They are all preventable. They all stem from conflict, which we must do much more to prevent and resolve. But even now, we can prevent the worst effects, if we act urgently and strongly.

I urge all members of the international community to step up and to do whatever is in their power, whether that is mobilizing support, exerting political pressure on parties to conflict, or funding humanitarian operations. I want to make a personal appeal to the parties to conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and allow aid workers access to reach people in desperate need. Without access, hundreds of thousands of people could die, even if we have the resources to help them."

Humanitarian operations in these four countries require more than US$5.6 billion this year.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1'30"

Source: United Nations Radio