The humanitarian catastrophe many of us know nothing about video

- (UGANDA) (AFP) - Since July 2016, more than 600,000 people have fled the escalating conflict and now famine in South Sudan into Uganda, according to the World Food Programme. The WFP warns that f...

It's been described as the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II: up to 23 million people are at risk of starvation in a food security crisis that could soon become one of the worst famines in human history.

Yet for these people - spread across the desperately poor nations of Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and and other East African countries - there have been no star-studded music videos or fundraising concerts.

United Nations efforts to raise at least $4.4 billion in humanitarian aid from wealthy nations have fallen embarrassingly short. Western leaders - distracted by Donald Trump, terrorism, Middle Eastern turmoil and North Korea - have largely been silent. Normally generous private donors have kept their wallets shut.

Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse ...
Andrew Renneisen

Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government run health clinic in Somalia.

Indeed, few people in the part of the world even know about the crisis.

READ MORE:
Famine declared in South Sudan, with one million people on brink
As starvation hits South Sudan, mothers tell their survival stories
Drought kills 110 people in just 48 hours as Somalia slips into famine

New polling conducted for aid agency Caritas in Australia has found just 32 per cent of people across the Tasman are aware there is a major crisis unfolding in the region.

A woman waits to be registered prior to a food distribution carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) ...
SIEGFRIED MODOLA

A woman waits to be registered prior to a food distribution carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Thonyor, Leer state, South Sudan.

A third of respondents to last week's Essential Research poll said they knew nothing about the crisis and a further 29 per cent indicated they had heard there was a problem but did not know any details.

When people were told there were up to 23 million people at risk, fewer than a quarter of the 1000 people polled said they would be prepared to donate.

Sixty-five per cent said they would not donate for a range of reasons, including a lack of money or preferring to support causes closer to home.

South Sudanese refugee families receive food at the Kuluba Collection Point in Uganda.
Dan Kitwood

South Sudanese refugee families receive food at the Kuluba Collection Point in Uganda.

Caritas CEO Paul O'Callaghan has just travelled to Kenya - where three million people are at risk - in an effort to raise awareness among his donors.

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He found once-productive farmland turned to wasteland by protracted drought.

He saw children weakened by severe malnutrition. Distraught parents who can do little but ration their meagre supplies and pray for rain.

A section of the Al-cadaala camp of the internally displaced people following the famine in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.
FEISAL OMAR

A section of the Al-cadaala camp of the internally displaced people following the famine in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.

"Those kids will probably be dead by the end of the year," he says.

"It's looking extremely bleak.

"We just haven't found - even across our normal donor base - there was much awareness of this even though we know our donors have very big hearts and would normally respond to something like this."

A young child lays on a bed in a tent set up to look after orphaned and unaccompanied refugee children  in Uganda.
Dan Kitwood

A young child lays on a bed in a tent set up to look after orphaned and unaccompanied refugee children in Uganda.

Chief among the problems is that the mainstream media has largely ignored the disaster.

While this is a crisis of enormous scale that could ultimately kill millions of people it's a slow, creeping kind of death. There are no dramatic pictures of giant waves or flooded streets or flattened buildings.

"In 1984, the Ethiopian famine had a really huge response from the Australian community. It was a very large, private donation response - and that was sustained by saturation media coverage of that at the time," O'Callaghan says.

Recently dug graves sit edges of a cemetery at the Shabelle IDP (internally displaced people) camp in Garowe, Somalia.
Andrew Renneisen

Recently dug graves sit edges of a cemetery at the Shabelle IDP (internally displaced people) camp in Garowe, Somalia.

"What's different 30 years later?

"Without very regular and extensive coverage - particularly TV coverage - you just don't get the same cut-through. Even though I think the underlying generosity level is still very strong."

The UN has officially declared a famine in South Sudan. Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are on the brink, declared when people have already started dying of hunger.

The continued flow of refugees from South Sudan, is putting pressure on the many humanitarian partners, and their ...
Dan Kitwood

The continued flow of refugees from South Sudan, is putting pressure on the many humanitarian partners, and their capacity to cope with the crisis.

Agencies like Caritas say the foreign aid which has been pledged is well short of what's needed.

Particularly given Europe, rocked by political upheaval, is not playing its usual leadership role in Africa. And given the Trump administration is planning on cutting more than a third from America's $30 billion aid program.

What about celebrity power? Where are the Bob Geldofs and the Bonos of the next generation?

A young girl holds a baby as she stands and waits for a truck to take them to an area where they will be able to set up ...
Dan Kitwood

A young girl holds a baby as she stands and waits for a truck to take them to an area where they will be able to set up shelter at the Imvepi Settlement in Uganda.

"They managed to galvanise tens of millions of people around the world to get interested and to get active. And that lasted for a long time.

"But that sort of response just doesn't seem to be on the horizon now."

A man draws water from a nearly dried up riverbed in Dhudo, Somalia. People travel up to 75 kilometres to get water, as ...
Andrew Renneisen

A man draws water from a nearly dried up riverbed in Dhudo, Somalia. People travel up to 75 kilometres to get water, as it is one of the only sources left in the region.

Somalia is currently on the brink of famine with over half of the country's population facing acute food insecurity ...
Andrew Renneisen

Somalia is currently on the brink of famine with over half of the country's population facing acute food insecurity according to the United Nations.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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