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Growing risk of mass starvation deaths in Africa, Yemen: UN

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AFP,  Geneva :
The United Nations warned on Tuesday of a growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in conflict and drought-hit areas of the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Nigeria.
An "avoidable humanitarian crisis ... is fast becoming an inevitability", as the UN faces a "severe" funding shortfall to help people affected by famine, said UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards.
UNHCR's operations in famine-hit South Sudan, and in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, which are on the brink of famine, are funded at between just three and 11 per cent, he told reporters in Geneva.
As a whole, the United Nations has requested $4.4 billion to address the crisis in the four countries, but has so far received only $984 million, said UN humanitarian agency spokesman Jens Laerke said.
The current crisis risks becoming worse than the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa that killed more than 260,000 people in Somalia alone, Edwards said. "A repeat must be avoided at all costs," he said.
More than 20 million people across Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, are in areas hit by drought and are experiencing famine or are at high risk of famine, according to UN numbers.
"It is of immediate urgency that more funds are committed to avert a further descent into disaster in these acute crises," Laerke said.
In conflict-ravaged South Sudan, where the UN warned in February that fighting, insecurity, lack of access to aid and the collapsing economy had left 100,000 people facing starvation, "a further one million people are now on the brink of famine," Edwards said.
And in Yemen, which is already experiencing the world's largest humanitarian crisis, 17 million people, or around 60 per cent of the war-torn country's population, are going hungry.
In northern Nigeria meanwhile, seven million people are currently struggling with food insecurity, with the situation particularly bad in the north-east of the country, a stronghold of Boko Haram jihadists.

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