A desperate plea for help as 4 African nations near a famine crisis

Aid agencies sound alarm as 20 million risk having no food and water.

ByABC News
May 2, 2017, 6:27 PM

— -- The U.N. refugee agency is issuing an urgent warning: The risk of mass deaths from starvation in the Horn of Africa is growing, making the humanitarian crisis inevitable.

ABC News anchor David Muir and his team traveled with Carolyn Miles, the CEO of Save the Children, as the organization sent mobile clinics to isolated villages deep in the deserts of Somaliland. There they found a little boy, so weak he could not stand. A band was placed on his arm to measure his level of malnutrition. His result was in the red, signaling severe acute malnutrition.

"It's one of the worst crises that we've seen since World War II," Miles said. "I don't think the world has really woken up to this disaster at this point. They haven't realized what's happening — the possibility of four famines at once."

Those nations on the brink of famine -- South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria -- mean that 20 million people are at risk of starvation. Nearly 10 million of which are children. Aid workers fear that President Trump's urging of Congress to cut foreign aid could have a chilling effect worldwide.

Muir and his team journeyed for hours through the desert to reach some of the most remote villages in Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent country in northern Somalia.

In Harashef, residents need both food and water. The line waiting for Save the Children trucks started forming early in the morning. Villagers said that it had not rained in three years to four years.

Halina, a villager waiting in line, said her livestock had died, leaving her family with no food or income. She said she remembered it raining for one day last year. As two trucks delivered water, hundreds of families tried to reach the hoses, desperately trying to get just enough water to last a couple of days.

Across Somalia, 70 percent of farm animals have died. One mother moved closer to a village in hope of food. She was down to 10 goats after initially having 200. The mother, a single parent, said she spent her days worrying about food for her family of five.

At Burao Regional Hospital in Somaliland, there are more patients than beds. Dr. Yusef Ali continues his fight on the frontlines. Ali, the regional director of health, said that many children had already died.

"They are the lucky ones who make it to the hospital, but so many don't make it to the hospital," he told ABC News. "Most of the kids are from remote areas. We don't have ambulances to bring them up."

Ali said the country was on the verge of famine. He showed Muir children in critical condition from hunger, some suffering from severe diarrhea, measles and pneumonia.

"We're seeing it [famine]," he said. "It's here ... We are losing them [children]. There are so many unreported cases. We are losing them."

As the crisis looms, Save the Children and other nongovernmental organizations continue to provide support on the ground to the region and to the people most in need.

Click here for more information about Save the Children.

Click here for more information on UNICEF.

$10: Can help treat a malnourished child for two weeks (about two packets of Plumpy'Nut per day).

$15: Can help treat a malnourished child for nearly three weeks.

$20: Can help treat a malnourished child for one month or help treat two children for two weeks.

$40: One carton of Plumpy'Nut can help cure one child who is severely malnourished or treat four malnourished children for two weeks.

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