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End Time News – Updated 1 June 2017 - 7 stories
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Quake of 6.8 magnitude strikes off Vanuatu in South Pacific: USGS

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck north of the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 175 km (108 miles) and was located about 115 km (71 miles) north of Vanuatu's Santo island, the USGS said.

There was no immediate tsunami warning or any reports of damage or casualties.

(Reportng by Robert Birsel)

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Ebola virus disease – Democratic Republic of the Congo
Disease outbreak news

On 9 May 2017, WHO was informed of a cluster of undiagnosed illness and deaths including haemorrhagic symptoms in Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), bordering Central African Republic. Since 22 April, nine cases including three deaths have been reported. Six cases are currently hospitalized.

On 11 May 2017, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of DRC informed WHO that of the five samples collected from suspected cases, one tested positive by RT-PCR for Ebola virus subtype Zaire at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa. Additional specimens are currently being tested and results, including sequencing, are awaited to describe the outbreak.

On 10 May 2017, a multidisciplinary team led by the MoH and supported by WHO and partners was deployed to the field and are expected to reach the affected area on 12 or 13 May 2017 to conduct an in depth field investigation.

The investigation is currently ongoing and information is available for only three of the suspected cases: The first case (and possibly the index case), a 39-year-old male presented onset of symptoms on 22 April 2017 and deceased on arrival at the health facility. He presented with haematuria, epistaxis, bloody diarrhoea, and haematemesis. Two contacts of this case are being investigated: a person who took care of him during transport to the health care facility (he has since developed similar symptoms) and a moto-taxi driver (deceased) who transported the patient to the health care facility.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers has been shipped on 12 May 2017 to Kisangani. Additional kits are currently being prepared and will be shipped as soon as available.

Background and epidemiological situation

On 20 November 2014, as per WHO recommendations, the MoH of DRC and WHO declared the end of the EVD outbreak that started on 24 August 2014 and resulted in a total of 38 laboratory confirmed cases and 28 probable case including 49 deaths in Boende, Equateur province. This was the seventh outbreak of EVD since its discovery in 1976 in DRC.

2014: 66 cases of EVD including 49 deaths diagnosed initially in Equateur province (Watsi Kengo, Lokolia, Boende, and Boende Muke).
2012: 36 cases including 13 deaths Orientale province - Isiro (Bundibugyo virus).
2008–2009: 32 cases including 15 deaths in Kasaï-Occidental (Zaire virus).
2007: 264 cases including 187 deaths in Kasaï-Occidental (Zaire virus).
1995: 315 cases and 250 deaths occurred in Kikwit and surrounding area.
1977: 1 case (Zaire virus).
1976: 318 cases including 280 deaths in Yambuku (Zaire virus).
There are five identified subtypes of Ebola virus. The subtypes have been named after the location where they have been first detected. Three of the five subtypes have been associated with large Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) outbreaks in Africa. Ebola–Zaire, Ebola–Sudan and Ebola–Bundibugyo. EHF is a febrile haemorrhagic illness which causes death in 25–90% of all cases.

Public health response

The following public health response measures have been implemented:

The national committee against viral haemorrhagic fever has been reactivated and will continue meeting every day to coordinate the response.
Strengthening of surveillance and investigation including contact tracing are ongoing.
WHO will provide assistance and technical support. The deployment to DRC of an additional WHO multidisciplinary team is currently considered to support the response of national authorities.
The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has been activated to provide additional support if required.
The need and feasibility of potential Ebola ring vaccination is being discussed.
WHO risk assessment

To date, the outbreak is reported in a remote and hard to reach area and appears to be geographically relatively limited. However, Investigations are ongoing to assess the full extent of the outbreak and therefore high vigilance still needs to be maintained.

WHO does not recommend any restriction of travel and trade to DRC based on the currently available information.


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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Colombian Armed Conflict Rages On as Guerrillas, Cartels Take Over Abandoned FARC Territories
by Felipe Fernandez

The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, one of Colombia’s main organizations fighting against violence and lawlessness, has taken issue with FARC guerrilla dissidents illegally occupying territory abandoned after the peace deal.

The organization’s study pointed out that territories abandoned by FARC after making a peace deal with the Santos administration have created a serious problem: There are 242 municipalities grouped into 26 rural transit zones, but there are new subversive groups taking up power there.

“In some municipalities, there are warnings about the presence of new illegal armed groups and criminal structures,” the report said, “which control criminal-linked economies such as coca cultivation, illegal mining and extortion.”

Much of this problem has been blamed on the country’s second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as on a rise of criminal gangs dedicated to drug trafficking, such as the Gulf Clan and FARC dissidents.

Though FARC land has been redistributed, much of it has simply shifted to other criminal organizations.

The organization’s claims line up with those made by local media.

“In Anorí, Antioquia, the ELN charge money for vaccines. In Chocó there is a territorial war between the ELN and the ‘Usuga.’ In Cauca, the ELN try to take advantage of coca crops. In Nariño, the ‘Usuga clan’ disputes coca farming. In Meta and Guaviare, ‘Usuga’ face ‘Puntilleros’ and the areas run by dissidents of FARC’s first front are in dispute. In northern Santander, ELN’s northeastern war front has a non-aggression pact with ‘Los Pelusos.’ Catatumbo is being co-opted by the ELN through extortion,” the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo recently wrote.

It also reported that management of post-conflict land distribution, which is the responsibility of the Minsitry of Defense, has been “deficient.”

“If Minister Villegas’ greatest victory is to say that in four months of 2017 more coca was eradicated than in all of 2016, the necessary conclusion is that nothing was done in 2016, and that’s why we have 44,479 acres of coca,” the paper wrote. “No, Minister (Villegas), your failure is not a matter of giving a right or wrong answer in an interview. You have not lived up to the challenge of filling the void left by the FARC. You’ve got big shoes to fill.”

The research group also observed a “poor institutional response” to the withdrawal of the FARC from various territories. Authorities were not prepared “to respond to the minimum needs of security, justice, infrastructure,” among other things.

The “fast-track” plan for carrying out the post-conflict phase of the Santos-FARC Agreement seems to be failing, leading the study to suggest that both sides “relaunch the process.”

Source: El País, El Tiempo


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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Thousands flee armed conflict in Kunduz

“Hundreds of Afghan families are desperately fleeing armed conflict in Kunduz Province. Many are accommodated with extended families elsewhere, but some have had to sleep in the open,” said Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director in Afghanistan, Kate O'Rourke.

“Taliban fighters were shooting from one side of our house and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) from the other side. A rocket landed in my garden. My wife told me that if I didn’t flee, she would leave the house alone with our two daughters. We fled. We left everything behind. I’m afraid it will be looted,” Rahman Gerdi (29), a civilian from Aq-tapa, told NRC emergency response staff in Kunduz.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), also known as the Taliban, captured one of Kunduz Province’s seven districts, Qala-e Zal, on 6 May, and are launching attacks on ANSF checkpoints along the main road to Khanabad district. Civilians are fleeing from both locations. The intensity of armed conflict in northern Afghanistan has increased over the past week, following the announcement of the IEA's spring offensive on 28 April.

Abdul Karim (31) from Qala-e Zal, fled with his family to Kunduz City, where he is staying in a compound with four other families.

“Around 2.30 am Taliban fighters came to our houses and asked us to evacuate. They told us not to make any sound. We were all afraid,” he told NRC staff in Kunduz City on Saturday.

Preliminary reports from families who fled, local authorities, and aid groups indicate that thousands of people have been displaced.

“Around 180 families from my neighbourhood in Qala-e Zal have been displaced into Kunduz City. But those with no money, like widows, are in Qala-e Zal desert, as they couldn’t make it as far as the city. They are now living in the open,” said Abdul Karim.

A rapid humanitarian assessment is currently being undertaken in Kunduz, to identify immediate needs of families displaced by the recent fighting. NRC is ready to provide emergency shelter, water, food, sanitation and hygiene articles and other essential supplies.

“All armed actors must respect International Humanitarian Law, avoiding civilian casualties and allowing fleeing civilians safe passage. We request security assurances from all parties to the conflict for safe humanitarian access to respond to those in need,” said O’Rourke.


• The security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan. Up to half of the country is no longer under Afghan government control. More than 600,000 Afghans were internally displaced due to conflict over 2016; taking the total number of IDPs in the country to more than 1.7 million. This year, IDP numbers are expected to rise further.

• Between 1 January and 20 April 2017, 75,000 Afghan girls, boys, women and men were displaced due to conflict—an average of 680 people per day. People fled from 27 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces; 115 out of its 399 districts.

• On Friday 28 April, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) issued their annual spring offensive announcement.

• Kunduz Province was captured by the IEA in September and October 2015 and in October 2016, resulting in mass displacement on both occasions. Afghan and international security forces responded. On 3 October 2015, during the campaign to recapture Kunduz City, the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz was attacked by international military aircraft, killing 42 people.

• Kunduz Province is one of the main destinations of registered Afghan refugees who have reportedly felt forced to return from Pakistan in high numbers since mid-2016.

• In total, over 2016, NRC directly assisted 300,000 displaced persons in Afghanistan, through programming, which includes legal assistance, shelter, and education in emergencies. NRC maintains ten offices across Afghanistan, including in Kunduz. From the Kunduz office, NRC directly implements humanitarian shelter, legal protection, and education in emergencies programming, as well as maintaining an emergency response capacity.

• NRC is a leading partner of the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM) in Afghanistan, a partnership of seven international, humanitarian NGOs, which provide rapid, emergency assistance to women, boys, girls, and men displaced by conflict or affected by natural disasters. NRC is grateful to the European Commission’s humanitarian financing of the ERM.


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Wars and Rumors of Wars

U.N.: 317 Iraqis killed in violence, armed conflict during April
by Mohamed Mostafa

Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Violence and armed conflicts claimed the lives of 317 Iraqis and caused injuries to 403 others during the month of April, according to a monthly United Nations count, signalling a drop from last month’s numbers.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Nineveh, where U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops are caught up in battles against Islamic State militants in Mosul since October, was the most affected governorate, with 276 casualties (153 killed, 123 injured). Baghdad Governorate followed with 55 killed and 179 injured. Salahuddin came third, with 15 killed and 43 injured.

The overall count is a drop from March’s 1115.

“Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists have detonated car bombs in residential neighbourhoods in Mosul and attacked civilians desperately fleeing the fighting as the security forces liberate more territory from the terrorists,” said U.N representative to Iraq, Yan Kubic.

“But Daesh’s atrocities were not confined to the combat zones and spared no one. They have struck in liberated areas where people are trying to rebuild their lives, using suicide bombers as in the attack in the Sunni heartland of Tikrit in Salah Al-Din Governorate earlier in April. They have also attacked with a suicide bombing in the Karrada neighbourhood of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad last weekend,” he added.


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‘A famine unlike any we have ever seen’
by Kevin Sieff

As Nigeria battles Islamist terrorists, millions are at risk of starvation.

BANKI, Nigeria — They survived Boko Haram. Now many of them are on the brink of starvation.

Across the northeastern corner of this country, more than 3 million people displaced and isolated by the militants are facing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters. Every day, more children are dying because there isn’t enough food. Curable illnesses are killing others. Even polio has returned.

About a million and a half of the victims have fled the Islamist extremists and are living in makeshift camps, bombed-out buildings and host communities, receiving minimal supplies from international organizations. An additional 2 million people, according to the United Nations, are still inaccessible because of the Boko Haram fighters, who control their villages or patrol the surrounding areas.

“We will see, I think, a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere,” unless immediate assistance is provided, said Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. official focused on humanitarian aid for the region.

The staggering hunger crisis created by the insurgents has been largely hidden from view, partly because it has been extremely dangerous for aid groups and journalists to visit the area. But institutional failures have exacerbated the situation: For over a year, the United Nations and humanitarian groups dramatically underestimated the size of the disaster, and the Nigerian government refused to acknowledge the huge number of people going hungry in Africa’s second-richest nation. Thousands of people have already died because of the inaction, aid experts say.

“It’s just a complete failure of the system,” said Natalie Roberts, an emergency program manager with Doctors Without Borders, an international aid group.

It took over a year for U.N. humanitarian teams to arrive in cities that were “liberated” from the rebels by the Nigerian military in a major offensive starting in early 2015. Until recently, the United Nations had only tiny staffs working in the northeast. The world body had deferred to Nigeria’s woefully unprepared government agencies to provide assistance, not realizing, U.N. officials said, the scale of the disaster.

Even now, the United Nations admits it is distributing food to only a fraction of those who need it. It says its mission in Borno state, the focus of the crisis, is dramatically underfunded. UNICEF warned recently that as many as 75,000 children will die in faminelike conditions in Borno and two adjacent states over the next year unless more assistance arrives.

The rising toll of the crisis is evident in such places as Banki, a city of about 15,000 near the Cameroonian border that was controlled by Boko Haram until a year ago. On a recent morning, four malnourished children writhed in beds in a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders.

One of them, Fana Ali, was 6 months old but weighed only 12 pounds, her skeletal frame convulsing with each breath. She wore a tiny, bright yellow dress and she had big brown eyes. A doctor fed her sugar water through a syringe. She locked her lips around it.

Less than an hour after she arrived at the clinic, health workers decided Fana needed to be evacuated to a hospital with electricity and more medicine. Xavier Henry, the local coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, called the Cameroonian military for an escort. This is still a war zone, and access to roads is largely dictated by the armed forces in the region.

ut the request was rejected without explanation. Thirty minutes later, Fana died. She had malaria and severe acute malnutrition.

The baby’s aunt carried the body back to their two-room home. Fana’s mother, Adama Adam, wept, the tears streaking onto the blue headscarf wrapped under her chin. She was only 15, her skinny arms mostly hidden under flowing clothes.

“We never have enough food,” said Jeme Bukar, Adam’s cousin, who lives in the same house.

Male relatives washed Fana’s tiny body and placed it in a wheelbarrow. Then they picked up shovels and axes, walking toward the packed cemetery just outside the town.

“I tried to call for the escort,” said Henry, shaking his head, his voice cracking.

His last posting was in Yemen, where yet another hunger crisis was unfolding. But the desperation and the scale of the problem in Nigeria have leveled him.

“I’ve never seen anything this bad,” he said.

‘Progress was far too slow’

In 2014, after years of guerrilla attacks, Boko Haram fighters swept across Borno, forcibly recruiting young men to fight and detaining young women in what effectively became rape camps. The insurgents killed thousands of civilians. The rebels became notorious worldwide in 2014 for kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls, an atrocity that prompted the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign. Less well-known was the insurgents’ destruction of the agricultural output of Borno, a Belgium-size state that was once a breadbasket for the region.

The Nigerian military, working with the armies of neighboring countries, launched an offensive in 2015 that reclaimed major cities across Borno. But Boko Haram fighters still moved freely throughout much of the vast countryside. Often, humanitarian workers say, it was too dangerous to send food to those areas, and it wasn’t even possible to learn the level of need in isolated cities. Only the military moved around much of the state.

Even as malnutrition rates soared, army commanders in this oil-rich country were reluctant to call for international assistance. They finally did so in June. Now aid trucks can move along some roads.

A Ni­ger­ian Defense Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, defended the performance, saying that security was the first priority of the armed forces.

“We had to get that right before we started providing for these people. Nobody predicted this kind of situation would exist,” he said.

But aid workers acknowledge that they only belatedly realized that the crisis had outstripped the government’s ability to respond.

“Progress was far too slow in jointly recognizing the enormity of the situation,” said Simon Taylor, the deputy head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nigeria.

“Initially there was a sense that it could be handled by the state authorities,” said another U.N. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for diplomatic reasons. “It was only in April when we realized the magnitude, and the fact the government couldn’t handle this alone.”

When aid groups did start to get access to some cities in Borno this past summer, they were shocked by what they found. People were eating grass and locusts. The rates of severe acute malnutrition — a life-threatening lack of food — were among the highest in the world. About half of all children were malnourished. In August, two children were found paralyzed by polio after eradication campaigns were cut back because of insecurity. They were the first recorded polio cases in Africa in almost two years.

Yet even now, after the crisis has been acknowledged, many people in “accessible” areas where food aid is meant to be arriving are going hungry. In some cases, humanitarian groups say they are still trying to determine where the needs are.

“Every time I think I know how bad it is, we get more data and it’s worse,” said Arjan de Wagt, the head of nutrition at UNICEF in Nigeria.

In parts of Maiduguri, the relatively safe capital of Borno, where more than a million people fled and where aid groups have been working for two years, many are still dying of malnutrition. There is not enough food being distributed in enough places to sustain them. The mortality rate in some camps and informal settlements is five times what is considered an emergency, according to Doctors Without Borders.

“Each time we hear of these [gaps in aid] we try and verify and, if we can, begin a distribution,” said Mutinta Chimuka, the head of field operations for the World Food Program in northeastern Nigeria.

The government still does not publicly acknowledge how dangerous the state remains. Last month, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a speech that residents in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states lived in relative safety. “Commuters can travel between cities, towns and villages without fear,” he said.

But in July, a U.N. convoy was attacked by Boko Haram gunmen outside the city of Bama, which is east of Maiduguri. The vehicles were armored and no one was injured.

In August, the United Nations sent two helicopters to Maiduguri, to fly humanitarian workers to reclaimed cities across Borno. Late last month, a Washington Post reporter and photographer traveled with aid workers to three newly accessible cities across the state.

But a huge portion of the state is still off-limits, too dangerous for the helicopters to land.

“You look out the window and you wonder: How bad are things down there? We just don’t know,” said Carmen Yip, an emergency health coordinator with the International Rescue Committee.

Barely surviving

The city of Gwoza, the former headquarters of Boko Haram, is still scarred by the years insurgents ran it. Hundreds of buildings are charred, missing roofs, crumbling from rocket-inflicted damage.

Now, the city is controlled by Nigerian forces. Days after they seized the town in March 2015, Gen. Chris Olukolade, a military spokesman, visited from the capital with a group of journalists, telling residents, “Everything you have gone through is very bad, but this is the end.”

But more than a year later, many of those living here are barely surviving.

Ramatu Musa, 22, and her extended family live in a bombed-out house near the center of the city. They fled from nearby Hambada village over a year ago, after Boko Haram fighters overran it.

They have enough food to eat only one meal a day, and Musa has struggled to feed her baby daughter.

“The breast isn’t bringing milk,” she said.

In many cases across Borno, mothers are eating so little that they are unable to breast-feed — a major cause of child malnutrition. At a UNICEF clinic in Gwoza, one doctor reported seeing as many as 70 malnourished children a day.

“We need more food, oxygen, a blood bank, IVs, an ultrasound,” said Ernest Okoli, a doctor, standing outside his clinic in a former courthouse, where patients were being treated on the floor. “Should I go on?

Many of the hungry are hidden away in war-ravaged neighborhoods and haven’t been included in any rough population count. The United Nations estimates that there are about 36,000 displaced people in Gwoza. But the top military commander there put the figure at 80,000.

More are coming every day.

When they arrive here, escapees tell of villages under Boko Haram control, some of them taken recently.

“They destroyed everything,” said Alima Auza, 30, who escaped as her village of Bura Manga was attacked by insurgents last month.

The Nigerian military has formulated its own strategy to end the war: starve the enemy. It is now blocking all food, including from regional markets, from entering parts of Borno where Boko Haram might be lurking.

That has contributed to the possibility that hundreds of thousands of civilians held or isolated by insurgents could starve alongside fighters.

“We know when we get there, we are going to see some scenes that will disturb us greatly,” Taylor said.


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Starving to death
by Max Bearak and Laris Karklis - Washington Post

Wars in four countries have left 20 million people on the brink.

Our world produces enough food to feed all its inhabitants. When one region is suffering severe hunger, global humanitarian institutions, though often cash-strapped, are theoretically capable of transporting food and averting catastrophe.

But this year, South Sudan slipped into famine, and Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are each on the verge of their own. Famine now threatens 20 million people — more than at any time since World War II. As defined by the United Nations, famine occurs when a region’s daily hunger-related death rate exceeds 2 per 10,000 people.

The persistence of such severe hunger, even in inhospitable climates, would be almost unthinkable without war.

Each of these four countries is in a protracted conflict. While humanitarian assistance can save lives in the immediate term, none of the food crises can be solved in the long term without a semblance of peace. The threat of violence can limit or prohibit aid workers’ access to affected regions, and in some cases, starvation may be a deliberate war tactic.

Entire generations are at risk of lasting damage stemming from the vicious cycle of greed, hate, hunger and violence that produces these famines. Children are always the most affected, as even those who survive may be mentally and physically stunted for life. And while this article focuses on the four countries most immediately at risk, ongoing conflicts in Congo, the Central African Republic, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan has left millions hungry in those places, too.

In February, the United Nations declared a famine in South Sudan’s Mayendit and Leer counties. It was the world’s first famine declaration since 2011, in Somalia.

But even in these two counties, more people still die every day from bullets than from empty stomachs or disease. The state the counties are in, Unity, has seen some of the most ruthless violence since South Sudan became an independent country five years ago.

Unity is the home state of Riek Machar, former vice president and leader of a rebel army of mostly ethnic Nuer people that has been locked in violent confrontations with South Sudan’s army, controlled by President Salva Kiir of the Dinka ethnic group, since 2013. Kiir’s army and allied militias have swept through Unity time and again, razing and burning entire villages, slaughtering and raping as they go. Thousands of people have drowned in the state’s rivers and swamps as they fled.

Those rivers and swamps would otherwise provide Unity’s people with abundant fish and water for irrigation. But relentless war renders just about all aspects of daily life unsafe, with people too afraid to leave home, fish, plant or trade. Even fleeing can be risky. Many are eating grass and water lilies just to survive.

Both the rebels and the government have made it difficult for aid workers to reach the most-affected counties. The Washington Post’s Africa correspondent, Kevin Sieff, recently reported on the government’s obstructionism.

“Some of their actions appear to be brute thuggery, like the theft by soldiers last summer of more than 4,000 tons of food from a warehouse in Juba, the capital, enough to feed 220,000 people for a month,” he wrote. “But aid workers fear the government is intentionally denying aid to regions where it believes residents support the rebels.”

Sieff described how, at more than 70 checkpoints on the road between Juba and Unity State, soldiers would often demand bribes or food from aid workers, and how the government refuses to let the United Nations operate flights that could drop food aid over areas at risk of famine. Dozens of aid workers attempting workarounds have been killed in the war’s crossfire.

The United States and others in the U.N. Security Council have proposed an arms embargo to limit the South Sudan government’s capacity for violence. But when it came to a vote last December, more than half of the council members, including China and Russia, abstained. Neighboring African countries have also discussed a coordinated armed intervention, but that has not garnered much support.

Since 2015, Yemen has been in a civil war. The fighting has divided control of the country along sectarian and ideological lines, and resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000. It has also decimated Yemen’s economy.

Yemen was fragile before the war, but its currency, industry, transport infrastructure and public services have all but been destroyed in the past two years. Millions are jobless, and food and fuel prices have shot through the roof. An estimated 17 million people, or 60 percent of the country’s population, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance; about 7 million are living day-to-day, enduring until they wither away.

The physical destruction has mostly been the work of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition -- advised and supplied by the United States, Britain, and others -- that has sided with Yemen’s Sunni president against the Houthis, an armed Shiite militia that now controls the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s western coast.

One key piece of infrastructure that the coalition has made near-inoperable is the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida, Yemen’s largest and most vital. Almost 90 percent of Yemen’s food is imported, and most of it came through Hodeida. Saudi ships are currently enforcing a near total blockade of the port, arguing that they can’t risk arms smuggling even though the United Nations inspects each ship on arrival.

Should the coalition move to take Hodeida’s city and port militarily, it could shut off what trickle of food is left to Sanaa and other highly populated inland areas, triggering a famine, according to aid agencies. Coalition officials, on the other hand, have argued that if they took the port, they could ensure the passage of aid without worrying about arms smuggling.

Either way, vast swaths of Yemen are under constant bombardment from the coalition, which has reduced markets, factories, hospitals, roads and bridges to rubble. Three quarters of the residents of the city of Taizz and its surrounding areas, for instance, are facing an emergency food shortage because the area is effectively inaccessible. Saudi Arabia maintains that it does all it can to avoid civilian casualties, but human rights groups have documented countless strikes on seemingly nonstrategic targets.

Yemen’s food crisis is expected to deteriorate as international traders become less and less likely to do business in a country without a functioning central bank and currency. The fate of millions also hangs on what happens in Hodeida, which is likely to be the scene of a major battle in the near future.

Boko Haram’s bloody reign of terror in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State has been so intense over the past few years that aid groups have struggled to even enter the region. Reliable data on hunger is limited. Some aid workers speculate that Borno may have already passed through periods of famine, or may be in one now.

The fighting has displaced more than 3 million people, and left a previously fertile region desiccated and barren. Vast camps have sprung up within Nigeria, as well as across the borders in Niger and Cameroon. The population of the relatively safe capital of Borno, Maiduguri, has doubled because of the influx, and the city is now a hub for disease. Tens of thousands of Nigerians, meanwhile, have set their sights north, across the Sahara, toward Libya and ultimately Europe, attempting an expensive and dangerous trip that many do not survive.

Almost as many as those who have fled Boko Haram-controlled areas have stayed behind. Those people are most at risk of starvation, because their villages are inaccessible to outside aid.

Nigeria’s military, even in cooperation with neighboring countries and U.S. and British advisers, has proved sorely inadequate in rooting out the insurgency, although they have made some progress. When they have succeed in liberating towns and villages from Boko Haram, they often find residents eating grass and insects because that’s all that’s left.

The United Nations. has warned that half a million children in northeastern Nigeria are so severely malnourished that 75,000 could die by June. A growing measles outbreak in the region could transform into an epidemic, too.

Because of the struggle to gain access to the most critically affected people, organizations realized the scale of the crisis in Nigeria long after malnutrition was rife. Much of the blame falls on the Nigerian government’s lack of response, according to aid workers. Despite having the continent’s largest economy, the country’s leaders have failed to address the hunger emergency in Borno.

Six years ago, more than a quarter of a million Somalis died in a famine. The rains have now failed for two consecutive years in parts of the country, and there are growing fears of a repeat catastrophe. But droughts are common in Somalia, and do not always result in famine. The common link between 2011 and today is the continued presence of al-Shabab, an armed group closely linked with al-Qaeda.

While al-Shabab has lost ground since 2011, the famine risk in Somalia is concentrated in rural areas in the country’s south, where the group is still strong. That is because the militant group severely restricts the movement of locals who may be in search of scarce food and water. They also restrict access to aid.

Yet Somalia, surprisingly, is where there is the most optimism at averting a famine. Despite the fighting, al-Shabab has recently given assurances that it will allow for freer movement of people. The power of the group has also declined significantly, meaning that climatic conditions contribute more to Somalia’s crisis proportionally than the others.

And while a drought can leave a nation reliant on aid, that is ultimately an easier problem to solve than war.

At this time of unprecedented need, the world’s biggest supplier of humanitarian relief is getting ready for a major cutback. Humanitarian aid makes up a tiny fraction of the U.S. government spending — less than 1 percent — but the Trump administration’s proposed budget would eliminate much of it. Although the cuts would have to withstand bipartisan opposition, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) could see their budgets reduced by more than a third. U.S. funding to the United Nations might drop by more than half.

The United Nations had sought $4.4 billion by the end of March for emergency hunger relief operations, but raised barely a fraction of that. Emergency funding doesn’t address the root causes of famine, nor can it always reach the worst-affected. But it can prevent the spread of disease and provide enough sustenance to the millions it does reach so that they might survive.

Sources: Conflict data via IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Center. Food insecurity data via fews.net. Displaced persons camp data via UNHCR and immap.org via mal-khameri@immap.org. Yemen territorial control via criticalthreats.org. Drought data via NASA Earth Observatory.


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