It was a major setback for three African countries, who are on brink of famine, after President Donald Trump proposed foreign aid cuts and threatened to pull the United States from its historic role as the world's top emergency donor. If it happens, it would be the world's largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years.
If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the US does not contribute to Africa's current crisis, experts warn that the continent's growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups.
The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in a trio of potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months. Famine already has been declared in two counties of South Sudan and 1 million people there are on the brink of dying from a lack of food, UN officials have said.
Somalia has declared a state of emergency over drought and 2.9 million of its people face a food crisis that could become a famine, according to the UN And in northeastern Nigeria, severe malnutrition is widespread in areas affected by violence from Boko Haram extremists.
"We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations," Stephen O'Brien, the UN humanitarian chief, told the UN Security Council after a visit this month to Somalia and South Sudan.
At least USD 4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a hunger "catastrophe" in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in late February.
But according to UN data, only 10 per cent of the necessary funds have been received so far. Trump's proposed budget would "absolutely" cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would "spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home," he said.
The United States traditionally has been the largest donor to the UN and gives more foreign aid to Africa than any other continent. In 2016 it gave more than USD 2 billion to the UN's World Food Program, or almost a quarter of its total budget. That is expected to be reduced under Trump's proposed budget, according to former and current US government officials.