Yemen, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are at risk of famine because of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the top UN relief official Mark Lowcock in a letter to the UN Security Council. Even before the pandemic, these areas were already conflict-ridden and chronically food-deprived, with conflict making it near impossible for humanitarian workers to deliver aid. Now, the economic damage and public health disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is tipping these regions into full-blown famine. Across these four countries, nearly 34 million people are affected by this crisis.

Now, the economic damage and public health disruptions caused by the pandemic is tipping these regions into full-blown famine.

In 2019, two billion people – a quarter of the global population – experienced hunger or did not have regular access to nutritious and sufficient food, and 690 million were undernourished. According to the publications The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2020, produced by the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies, the COVID-19 pandemic could make an additional 83-132 million people undernourished, a rise of 12-19%. Even in the countries not facing famine, disruptions to food supply and the lack of income from the loss of livelihoods and remittances as a result of COVID-19 means that million of people are now finding it difficult to get enough to eat, and when they do, it is often not nutritious enough.

Many people in these four countries are already facing significant health challenges from vaccine-preventable diseases, and hunger or malnutrition can greatly increase their risk of disease. The photos highlighted in this story show some of the people who could be affected by famine. Gavi is playing its part by trying to help protect them from other health threats, such as infectious disease through the provision of essential vaccinations.

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