UN says world faces largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 with 20 million at risk of starvation

Barney Henderson
Nyalok Mabor with her daughter Dalia who is suffering from severe malnutrition in South Sudan - Copyright ©Heathcliff O'Malley , All Rights Reserved, not to be published in any format without prior permission from copyright

The United Nations has warned that the world is facing the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 with starvation and famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeastern Nigeria.

Stephen O'Brien, the British UN humanitarian chief, stated on Friday that more than 20 million people across those four countries could die.

"Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death," he said at the UN Security Council, adding that "many more will suffer and die from disease".

1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death.

The worst-hit country is Yemen, where two-thirds of the population - 18.8 million people - need aid and more than seven million do not know where their next meal will come from.

Mr O'Brien said that is now three million more chronically hungry people in Yemen than in January. 

A peace deal between South Sudan and Sudan signed in August 2015 has failed, and clashes last July between the two forces set off further violence, killing tens of thousands of people and forcing 3.1 million to flee their homes.

An estimated 100,000 people in the country are experiencing famine, and one million others are on the brink of starvation.

Somalia is suffering from extreme drought that is killing scores of people every day. The government declared a national disaster last week.

The Nigerian military is battling Boko Haram Islamist terrorists in the north of the country, meaning many areas are too dangerous for aid workers to reach. At least five million people there are at risk of famine.