Food insecurity and famine

Nutrition counselling to mothers in Al Sabah stabilization centre, South Sudan

WHO helps worst cases of malnutrition in children in South Sudan

4 December 2017 - Six million people in South Sudan - well beyond the half of the population (56%) - were estimated to be severely food insecure in September 2017, out of which 40 000 in humanitarian catastrophe. The situation could worsen next year exposing multiple locations across the country to high risk of famine due to poor harvest. In 2018, 1.1 million children under five are expected to be malnourished.


Looking out for Acute Watery Diarrhoea in Somali region: A day in the life of a World Health Organization (WHO) surveillance officer in Ethiopia’s Somali region

6 September 2017 - WHO and partners are supporting government efforts to bring Ethiopia’s acute watery diarrhoea outbreak under control. WHO provides technical experts, supplies and logistical support to assist the Ethiopian health authorities with case management, infection prevention and control, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

Visiting affected communities is a key element of sustained social mobilization and is crucial to effective outbreak prevention and response. WHO surveillance officers regularly visit communities and health facilities to verify rumours, and to identify and investigate cases.

WHO provides lifesaving treatment for severely malnourished children

26 July 2017 - Food insecurity in many parts of South Sudan remains critical with a global acute malnutrition rate above emergency thresholds. To respond to the grave food insecurity situation and address the alarming nutritional emergency in children, WHO has intensified its response focusing on inpatient therapeutic nutrition programs, through the distribution of essential medicines.

Famine, Ethiopia, 2017

WHO responds to new acute watery diarrhea outbreak rumour in a remote zone in Somali region of Ethiopia

July 2017 -- In disease outbreak situations, rumours are as valuable as actual surveillance data. In fact, disease response teams particularly surveillance officers, attach a lot of importance on rumours and investigates them until proven wrong or right.

WHO/Tseday Zerayacob

Pre-famine situation in Somalia and its impact in the Horn of Africa region

24 May 2017 - The international community and the Somali federal government have both raised a red flag over the drought and pre-famine situation that has affected half of the country’s population. The drought has resulted in food insecurity, which has led to large scale malnutrition that has directly affected the health of the population. During the past 43 years Somalia has experienced three famines of comparable intensity.


WHO calls for immediate action to save lives in Somalia

11 May 2017 - WHO is concerned by the chronic shortage of funding for life-saving work in Somalia in response to the ongoing drought that has plunged the country further towards famine, disease, and health insecurity. Drought in Somalia led to the destruction of crops and livestock, leaving more than 3.3 million people hungry every day. If the current situation continues, famine could soon be a reality, creating a devastating cycle of hunger and disease as the health of people deteriorates and they become more susceptible to infection.


WHO Nigeria deploys personnel to combat maningitis outbreak in Sokoto

3 May 2017 – WHO in Nigeria has deployed 190 Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) personnel to support Sokoto state government in controlling the outbreak of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis. Response to the outbreak includes a reactive vaccination campaign that targets 740,000 people in the affected areas.


fact buffet

People affected

>20 millionPeople facing crisis or severe food insecurity in the Horn of Africa

Famine and health

Vaccines delivered

>4 000 000Number of cholera vaccine doses sent to affected countries through the International Coordinating Group in 2016-2017

ICG on vaccine provision for cholera

Funding needed

US$ 126 millionHealth sector funding requirements this year for Yemen alone

WHO Humanitarian Response Plans 2017

Diseases in famine

When there is severe lack of food, people suffer from starvation, which weakens immune system. The body becomes more susceptible to diseases that can be fatal if left untreated.

Acute malnutrition

Acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies can be widespread among refugees and displaced people.

Cholera and diarrhoeal diseases

Common in settings where the basic environmental infrastructures have been damaged or destroyed.


Caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bite of infected female mosquito.


Outbreaks can result in epidemics that cause many deaths, especially among malnourished children.


Children whose immune systems have been weakened are at higher risk of developing pneumonia

Country information

Eight countries in the Greater Horn of Africa are in grave food security situation, with famine declared in parts of South Sudan. Very high levels of malnutrition, cholera, and acute watery diarrhoea have been reported from some of the countries.