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Germany's Gabriel urges aid to prevent Africa famine

Germany's foreign minister has pledged an extra 15 million euros to prevent mass starvation in the Horn of Africa. The UN says 20 million people face famine in four countries, including Somalia and South Sudan.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) has appealed to the international community for "a rapid, concerted effort" to avoid a major famine on the Horn of Africa, the Lake Chad region and in South Sudan.

"If comprehensive international aid doesn't begin soon, millions of people in the affected regions will be threatened by starvation," Gabriel said on Sunday.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader promised United Nations emergency aid coordinator Stephen O' Brien that Germany would double its aid commitment to the Horn of Africa, with a pledge of an additional 15 million euros ($16 million) of relief money.

Watch video 01:46

UN warns that 20 million face starvation

Gabriel warned that "without a massive and sustained commitment by the international community, we will not help in time."

Gabriel called on other donors to quickly offer aid to the affected regions, adding that he would soon hold talks with major aid agencies and donor states.

Must act now

Last week, O'Brien warned of a humanitarian catastrophe with millions of deaths predicted in four countries - Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia as well as Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

"We cannot wait for the images of emaciated, dying children," O Brian said in an appeal to the UN Security Council in New York on Friday.

"All four countries have one thing in common - conflict - which means that we, the UN, have an obligation to prevent further misery and suffering," the Briton told diplomats.

Quick assistance and financial aid are necessary to prevent the worst outcome, he added.

Sigmar Gabriel stellt Jahreswirtschaftsbericht vor (Picture-Alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel

Earlier this week, during a visit to Somalia, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for $825 million dollars (772 million euros) of aid for the country.

According to UN figures, in Somalia alone, more than six million people - around half the population - are dependent on aid as a result of a severe drought.

Close to 8,000 cases of cholera have been reported over the past two months, due to an absence of clean drinking water.

Fueled by conflict

The suffering is made worse by an ongoing insurgency by the militant group Al Shabaab, which is trying to establish a strict, Islamic state in parts of Somalia.

The situation in South Sudan is also precarious, according to the UN. At least a million people are on the brink of famine, and a further 5.5 million are dependent on food aid.

Until now, only about ten percent of the required $1.6 billion in aid has been committed.

Germany recently promised 120 million euros in aid to help stabilize the Lake Chad region, where Boko Haram carries out regular attacks in four neighboring countries. In recent day, the Berlin government then added 40 million euros for South Sudan, the foreign office said.

Meanwhile, aid agencies have criticized the South Sudan government for increasing the cost of working visas for their relief workers from $300 to $10,000.

Amnesty International accused the government of "profiting from the crisis," just a month after ministers declared a famine in two regions.

mm/jm (AFP, dpa, KNA)

You can have a look on the following picture gallery from December 10, 2016.

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