UN chief says armed conflicts are having devastating humanitarian consequences.

Women carry boxes of nutritious food delivered by the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP), in Rubkuai village, Unity State, South Sudan, February 16, 2017.
Women carry boxes of nutritious food delivered by the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP), in Rubkuai village, Unity State, South Sudan, February 16, 2017.

More than $4 billion is needed by the end of March to help nearly 20 million people who are at risk of starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Citing armed conflicts and climate change as factors in the food emergency, Guterres led a call for $5.6 billion in funding for humanitarian operations in the four countries this year, of which $4.4 billion is needed by the end of next month "to avert a catastrophe."

"Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far," said Guterres.

"We are in the beginning of the year but these numbers are very worrying."

Armed conflicts are having devastating humanitarian consequences, said Guterres, calling climate change a "key enhancer" of the humanitarian problem.

Last week, the UN World Food Programme's chief economist said more than 20 million people in the four countries were at risk of dying from starvation within six months.

Guterres said women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis, and nearly half a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition.

"Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan," the UN chief said.

Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are facing a tragedy.

Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have died as part of a two-year-long conflict, is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, Guterres said, with an estimated 7.3 million people needing immediate help.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior UN official said more than seven million people face starvation in Nigeria's insurgency-hit north-east and around Lake Chad.

Source: Reuters