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346 million suffering from ‘alarming’ hunger in Africa: Red Cross

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Displaced people line up for food at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary shelter for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that conflict, climate change, and rising food and fuel prices are pushing about a quarter of Africans toward hunger.

The ICRC said on Tuesday that some 346 million people were suffering from "alarming" hunger and that number would probably rise in the coming months. Last year, the figure was about 286 million.

The crisis spans the continent, from drought-ravaged Somalia and Ethiopia in the east to Mauritania and Burkina Faso in the west, it added.

The conflict in Ukraine has also contributed to rising food and fuel costs and supply chain disruptions, amplifying the economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic, the ICRC added.

Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC head of global operations, also said in Nairobi that "the acute food insecurity situation in many of the countries where we are working - and people are already affected by armed conflict - is tipping into famine-like conditions."

The official said African children were also suffering from malnutrition. "This is a disaster going largely unnoticed. Millions of families are going hungry and children are dying because of malnutrition."

Stillhart warned about the underlying impact of climate change on harvests. "The current food security crisis is clearly the result of combined effects of conflict... but it is also the effect of repeated climate shocks."

Separately, a group of international aid groups in a statement on Tuesday said that about 27 million people in West Africa were suffering from hunger. About a dozen major international organizations, including Oxfam, ALIMA, and Save the Children, warned that the figure could even rise to 38 million this June.

Last month, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) warned  that over 70 percent of South Sudan's population would face extreme hunger this year because of natural disasters and instability.

The UN said in January that over six million people in eastern and southern Ethiopia would need "life-saving" interventions this year.

In Burkina Faso, the number of people displaced by hunger more than doubled in the past year.

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