Germany's Gabriel urges aid to prevent Africa famine

Germany's foreign minister has pledged an extra 15 million euros to prevent mass starvation in the Horn of Africa. The UN says 20 million people face famine in four countries, including Somalia and South Sudan.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) has appealed to the international community for "a rapid, concerted effort" to avoid a major famine on the Horn of Africa, the Lake Chad region and in South Sudan.

"If comprehensive international aid doesn't begin soon, millions of people in the affected regions will be threatened by starvation," Gabriel said on Sunday.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader promised United Nations emergency aid coordinator Stephen O' Brien that Germany would double its aid commitment to the Horn of Africa, with a pledge of an additional 15 million euros ($16 million) of relief money.

Gabriel warned that "without a massive and sustained commitment by the international community, we will not help in time."

Gabriel called on other donors to quickly offer aid to the affected regions, adding that he would soon hold talks with major aid agencies and donor states.

Must act now

Last week, O'Brien warned of a humanitarian catastrophe with millions of deaths predicted in four countries - Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia as well as Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

"We cannot wait for the images of emaciated, dying children," O Brian said in an appeal to the UN Security Council in New York on Friday.

"All four countries have one thing in common - conflict - which means that we, the UN, have an obligation to prevent further misery and suffering," the Briton told diplomats.

Quick assistance and financial aid are necessary to prevent the worst outcome, he added.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel

Earlier this week, during a visit to Somalia, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for $825 million dollars (772 million euros) of aid for the country.

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According to UN figures, in Somalia alone, more than six million people - around half the population - are dependent on aid as a result of a severe drought.

Close to 8,000 cases of cholera have been reported over the past two months, due to an absence of clean drinking water.

Fueled by conflict

The suffering is made worse by an ongoing insurgency by the militant group Al Shabaab, which is trying to establish a strict, Islamic state in parts of Somalia.

The situation in South Sudan is also precarious, according to the UN. At least a million people are on the brink of famine, and a further 5.5 million are dependent on food aid.

Until now, only about ten percent of the required $1.6 billion in aid has been committed.

Germany recently promised 120 million euros in aid to help stabilize the Lake Chad region, where Boko Haram carries out regular attacks in four neighboring countries. In recent day, the Berlin government then added 40 million euros for South Sudan, the foreign office said.

Meanwhile, aid agencies have criticized the South Sudan government for increasing the cost of working visas for their relief workers from $300 to $10,000.

Amnesty International accused the government of "profiting from the crisis," just a month after ministers declared a famine in two regions.

mm/jm (AFP, dpa, KNA)

You can have a look on the following picture gallery from December 10, 2016.

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

Alarming evidence of misery in Yemen

This image of 18-year-old Saida Ahmad Baghili, sitting on her bed at Al-Thawra in the Red Sea Port city of Hodeida shows her malnourished, emaciated body. It has come to stand for the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

Saida smiles - after weeks of treatment

Saida was transferred to a hospital in the capital, Sanaa. After weeks of hospital care, she can at least smile, though she can still barely speak and continues to find eating difficult at times. Her father is still worried: "She doesn't eat anything except liquid medical food. She used to drink juice and milk with bananas but now she can't. We don't know when she'll recover."

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

A lifelong condition

Doctors believe her condition has damaged her throat. When her family first brought Saida to a hospital, she could barely keep her eyes open or stand. "We admitted Saida to find out the cause of her inability to eat," her doctor said. "Her health issue remains chronic and her bones remain fragile due to stunted growth. In all likelihood, they will never return to normal."

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

Finally gaining weight

Her father, Ahmed, who is staying nearby to be with his daughter, said his daughter's weight has reached 16 kilograms (35 pounds), five kilos more than when she was first admitted to hospital. He said Saida's situation was alarming before the war, which began in March 2015. Yemen's crisis including widespread hunger was brought on by decades of poverty and internal strife.

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

Food insecurity

About half of Yemen's 28 million people are "food insecure," according to the United Nations, and 7 million of them do not now where they will get their next meal. The US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network, run by the US Agency for International Development, estimated that a quarter of all Yemenis are probably in a food security "emergency" - one stage before "catastrophe" or famine.

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

Saida out of the hospital

The war has pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of famine and displaced over three million people. Areas worst affected by the conflict are parts of Taiz province and southern coastal areas of the Hodeida province, where Saida is from.

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

One reason for undersupply

Restrictions imposed on the entry of ships after the start of the war in Yemen had raised insurance premiums and cut the number of vessels entering the port by more than half. About a million tons of food supplies entered through Hodeida in 2015, a third as much as in 2014.

Yemen: Girl recovers from malnutrition

Yemeni women call attention to disaster

Yemeni women are holding banners depicting suffering, malnourished children. They protest against a UN roadmap for the Yemen conflict, which is calling for naming a new vice president after the withdrawal of the Houthi rebels from Sanaa. Since the beginning of the war, at least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen.