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15 May, 2017 16:16

‘This isn’t fake news’: Trump coverage detracting from Africa & Middle East famines, UN agency warns

‘This isn’t fake news’: Trump coverage detracting from Africa & Middle East famines, UN agency warns

The media's constant focus on US President Donald Trump means the risk of famine in Africa and the Middle East is being overshadowed, the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said, adding that the issue is a "reality," not "fake news."

"I mean literally if you turn on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN – it's nothing but Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump!" WFP Director-General David Beasley told reporters in Geneva. “And very little information about the famines in Syria, northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen."

"We've got to break through all of the smoke," he said, as quoted by AP. "This is not fake news, this is reality."

Beasley, the former governor of South Carolina, also expressed a need to "rise above all the confusion," particularly in "high-donor states" such as the US.

"So we're making an appeal today for the donors to step up to the game even more," he said.

His comments came after the WFP and the UN refugee agency updated an appeal for $1.4 billion to help refugees fleeing South Sudan. The $1.4 billion figure represents nearly double the $781 million the agencies previously said they needed – only 14 percent of which has been provided.

"The suffering of the South Sudanese people is just unimaginable," Beasley said in a statement, as quoted by AFP, noting that many are "close to the abyss."

According to UN figures, some 20 million people in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are facing possible famine. The organization stated in March that the suffering represents the "world's largest" humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

South Sudan – which has been embroiled in a brutal civil war since December 2013 – has become the source of "the world's fastest growing refugee crisis," with some 1.8 million people – including 1 million children – seeking refuge in six neighboring countries, according to the UN refugee agency.

Yemen, which is also engaged in a civil war, is similarly facing a dire hunger situation, along with a cholera outbreak which has so far killed 115 people. An additional 8,500 others are also suffering from the illness, according to medics. 

Although Beasley credited the US government's recent supplemental appropriations bill on Monday, which "stepped up with $990 million in famine relief," he stressed that 2018 funding "is going to be a dog fight."