As much of southern and eastern Africa is facing a second consecutive severe drought due to worsening El Nino effects, approximately 50 million Africans will reportedly need food by the end of this year, the United Nations (UN) and other international organisations have warned.
According to a report by the Guardian, the drought has damaged food crops, disrupted water supply and increased food prices, leaving 31 million people needing food now and 20 million more likely to run out of food later this year.
The UN was quoted by the Guardian as saying that around six million people in southern Sudan, seven million in Syria, 10 million in Ethiopia, and 14 million in Yemen were in a danger of starvation due to floods and drought.
The World Food Programme was quoted by the daily as saying that the most dreadful El Nino in 30 years was expected to subside next month due to hot equatorial waters in the pacific returning to normal temperatures, but its effects would be felt for many months to come.
The UN's humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said: "The collective impact of the El Niño phenomenon has created one of the world's biggest disasters for millions of people, yet this crisis is receiving little attention... The numbers are staggering. One million children in eastern and southern Africa alone are severely acutely malnourished, and across southern Africa 32 million people need assistance and that figure is likely to increase."
The UN has predicted that food will reportedly start running out on a large scale by July, with the crisis peaking between December and next April.
As reported by the Guardian, besides seven of the nine South African provinces, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola and Swaziland have declared national emergencies. Botswana, Kenya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also been severely hit.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has called for foreign aid to buy food. In the next few weeks, Malawi is expected to declare that half of its population (more than eight million people) will need food aid by November.
Secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Elhadj As Sy has pledged $110 million after visiting Malawi and Zimbabwe last week. He was quoted by the British daily as saying: "We cannot describe enough how dire the situation is."
International donors fear that they will be unable to pledge enough in time to buy and deliver food. They fear that the Syrian civil war and the refugee crises are putting an unprecedented strain on aid. Africa has requested for more than $1.5 billion, however, so far less than 25% has been pledged.
Shadrack Omol, senior adviser to the UN's children fund UNICEF, said: "The window for responding in a meaningful manner is closing rapidly... The concern is that slow-onset emergencies, such as the one we are dealing with in southern Africa, do not get enough attention because they creep up on us."
Britain has contributed about £150 million in aid to El Niño-affected countries in Africa since July 2015.