March 11 (UPI) -- U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said Friday the world is facing its largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 as some 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria face famine and starvation.
O'Brien, speaking to the U.N. security council in New York, issued a plea for $4.4 billion by July to "avert a catastrophe" in the countries. Without a collective global effort, children will face severe malnutrition and economic development gains will be lost, said O'Brien, the U.N.'s under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
"The situation for people in each country is dire and without a major international response, the situation will get worse. All four countries have one thing in common: conflict," he said "It is all preventable. It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes."
The four countries face unique, yet similar, needs. In Yemen, two-thirds of the population, or some 18.8 million people, are in need of assistance as Saudi Arabia and Iran continue a proxy war on the country. Some 48,000 people fled in the past two months.
In South Sudan, humanitarian convoys have been coming under attack as a war that started in 2013 continues. The United Nations has suggested President Salva Kiir's government has been blocking humanitarian efforts.
In Nigeria, continued Boko Haram attacks, coupled with a lack of rule of law, has caused an increased need for humanitarian efforts. The United Nations said 75,000 children were facing starvation.
In the last famine in Somalia, about six years ago, nearly 260,000 people died. In early March, about 110 people died in a two-day period. Officials said a lack of water has killed crops and livestock. Continued attacks by al-Shabab has make the situation worse.