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Drought, conflict and famine in Africa

Drought and conflict have pushed the Horn of Africa, Nigeria and Yemen to the brink of famine, and a lack of aid funding means many could starve to death, the UN said Tuesday.

A malnourished child is fed a special formula by her mother at a regional hospital in Baidoa town, the capital of Bay region of south-western Somalia where severe cases of malnourishment and cholera are reffered by a UNICEF- funded health programme for children and adults displaced by drought on March 15, 2017. The United Nations is warning of an unprecedented global crisis with famine already gripping parts of South Sudan and looming over Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, threatening the lives of 20 million people. For Somalis, the memory of the 2011 famine which left a quarter of a million people dead is still fresh. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

Drought and conflict have pushed the Horn of Africa, Nigeria and Yemen to the brink of famine, and a lack of aid funding means many could starve to death, the UN said Tuesday.

More than 20 million people are at risk of famine in Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria, a tragedy already affecting 100,000 people in war-torn South Sudan.

Worldwide, Africa has been hardest hit by famine in recent decades, with repeated cycles of drought and conflict leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths due to starvation.

Here is a list of some of those famines:

– Nigeria –
– 1967-1970: War between the separatist Ibos group and government forces in the southeastern region of Biafra caused more than a million deaths from famine and sickness after federal troops blockaded the region.

– Ethiopia –
– 1973-74: Famine in 1973-74 killed around 200,000 people in the northern Wollo region and contributed to the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie.

– 1984-1985: Wollo was hit again by a drought made worse by a conflict that pitted the Marxist regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam against Eritrean and Tigrayan rebels. Around one million people died according to UN reports.

Images broadcast worldwide mobilised public opinion, and the renowned Live Aid concerts ushered in a new form of celebrity fundraising. The government’s policy of forced displacement was identified as another key factor in the catastrophe.

– Somalia –
– 1991-1992: Around 220,000 people died during a famine that followed the fall of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Somalia was ravaged by a civil war that required the intervention of UN and US forces.

– 2011: After suffering four droughts between 2000 and 2006, the entire Horn of Africa was hit by a crisis of historic proportions that affected more than 12 million people.

Southern Somalia was worst affected, with almost 258,000 deaths, more than half of them children under five, according to the UN and the US-based Famine Early Warnings Systems Network (FEWS Net).

– Sudan –
– 1993: An image of a baby crawling on the baked earth watched by a vulture, taken in southern Sudan by photographer Kevin Carter, came to symbolise the horrors of famine.

Tens of thousands are reported to have died in the 1993 food crisis — five years after a famine which killed some 250,000 in the same region — mainly in areas straddling tribal boundaries between the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups, whose rivalry continues to stoke fighting to this day.

– 1998: Famine stemming from drought and fighting that prevented people from tending their fields afflicted a million people, in particular in the Bahr el Ghazal region in what is now South Sudan, according to aid groups. Tens of thousands of people were reported to have died.

– 2003: The start of a civil war in the western Sudanese region of Darfur provoked a humanitarian crisis made worse by a poor harvest and the onset of drought.

Ethnic minority insurgents rebelled against President Omar al-Bashir, and the United Nations said at least 300,000 people died due to fighting, famine and disease. Khartoum maintains that the death toll stands at around 10,000.

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