Hunger and
Famine Risk

War, drought, and displacement is fueling the largest hunger crisis in decades, with more than 30 million people experiencing extreme food insecurity. Two-thirds of them are at immediate risk of famine.

Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen are at the epicenter of this emergency. In all four of these nations ongoing armed conflicts continue to force families from their homes, destroy economies and livelihoods, and hinder humanitarian organization’s ability to reach them. There is little sign any of the conflicts will end soon. In a fifth country, Ethiopia, a worsening drought threatens the ability of an estimated 8.5 million people to feed themselves.

International Medical Corps is fighting hunger and famine in Somalia, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, Yemen, and Ethiopia by providing lifesaving treatment for malnutrition and other relief.

Countries Impacted

Ethiopia

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Somalia

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Yemen

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Nigeria

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South Sudan

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30 million 

people experiencing extreme food insecurity

1.4 million 

children at-risk of starvation

4 countries 

teetering on famine, in a 5th country conditions worsen

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is famine?

    Famine can only be declared when three specific criteria are met: one in five households are experiencing extreme food shortages; more than 30 percent of the population is acutely malnourished; and at least two people out of every 10,000 are dying each day. The last famine declaration occurred early this year in South Sudan in two areas of war-torn Unity State. Prior to that, Somalia saw famine conditions in 2011 that led to the deaths of nearly 260,000 people—half of them children.

  • Why are so many people at-risk of starving?

    : All four countries at immediate risk of famine—South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria—are in the throes of armed conflict. The violence has forced people to flee their homes, kept them from their livelihoods, destroyed economies, and, in some cases, prevented humanitarian organizations like International Medical Corps from reaching those in need. In Somalia, consecutive failed rains caused widespread crop failure and loss of livestock, compounding what was already a dire humanitarian crisis.

  • Is climate change making the situation worse?

    In Somalia and Ethiopia, droughts are becoming increasingly severe and frequent. Both have seen back-to-back failed rains—a development that has left millions of people without enough to eat. These repeated shocks severely erode families’ abilities to cope because they are unable to recover their crops and livestock over sustained periods of time.

  • What needs to happen to prevent famine?

    Famine can be prevented if humanitarian organizations have the financial support to deliver lifesaving assistance and have access to those in need. Currently, UN appeals to fight famine and hunger are underfunded, which means the humanitarian community does not have the resources required to meet the needs of communities facing famine. Additionally, some areas with the highest rates of malnutrition are controlled by non-state armed actors where security conditions make it impossible for humanitarian organizations to operate. This means we cannot provide families with relief to prevent and treat malnutrition.

PBS Newshour: Fighting Famine in South Sudan

International Medical Corps’ work is featured in special correspondent Jane Ferguson’s report on South Sudan, where countless numbers of people are on the run amid a brutal civil war.

The Challenges

Armed Conflict

Armed conflicts in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan, and Nigeria restrict access to families at risk of famine.

Displaced Populations

Violence and drought have forced millions of families across the four countries to flee their homes in search of safety and assistance.

Disease Outbreaks

Outbreaks of diseases like cholera and measles can increase the risk of death, especially among children.

Our Response

Nutrition and Food Security

International Medical Corps’ First Responders go directly into communities, using whatever transport necessary—even canoes—to reach malnourished children with lifesaving nutrient-dense food. We also run 24-hour stabilization centers, where malnourished children with medical complications receive around-the-clock care.

We prevent malnutrition by providing seeds, tools, and other livelihoods support to families. One example: a program in Ethiopia where we expand livestock ownership to smallholder farmers in an effort to increase the quality and diversity of their household diet. Another example is in northeastern Nigeria, where we work with the World Food Programme (WFP) to distribute supplementary food to families displaced by the armed militant group Boko Haram.

Health Care

International Medical Corps provides primary and secondary health care services in clinics and hospitals as well as mobile medical units, which travel to remote and underserved communities. We are also responding to outbreaks of disease. This includes running cholera treatment facilities as well as supporting vaccination campaigns against measles. Medical interventions are critical in the fight against hunger, as disease and malnutrition are inextricably linked: the malnourished—especially children–are more susceptible to illness, while diseases can cause or worsen malnutrition.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

To prevent diarrhea and diseases that can worsen malnutrition, International Medical Corps provides safe drinking water in displacement camps and communities. This is especially true in camps where people live in cramped conditions—especially fertile ground for disease outbreaks. We also improve sanitation and hygiene in communities by building and managing latrines, distributing personal hygiene items like soap, and educating families on how to keep themselves healthy.

On the Precipice of Famine in a Country Ravaged by Boko Haram

An unprecedented 20 million people today are on the precipice of famine. At the heart of this crisis is Nigeria, where a seven-year-long conflict triggered by the insurgent group Boko Haram has wreaked havoc on the northeastern corner of the country.

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Help those suffering from hunger.