A few months ago I was at a meeting in which the severe effects of drought were mentioned as the initial signs of a potential humanitarian disaster. In Uganda, we heard many stories of lack of rain, and of farmers losing their livelihoods in the North of the Country. But things have got much worse.

On 20th February famine was declared in areas of South Sudan while several other countries in the region are on the brink of famine. This means that there are already people dying from starvation as you are reading this. This is the first time in six years that famine has been declared anywhere in the world.

More than 25 million people across South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya need urgent humanitarian assistance and protection. The modern humanitarian system has never had to cope with so many children needing treatment for hunger at the same time.

The extreme food insecurity has been caused by collapsing economies, conflict, and climate shocks. Catastrophic drought has ruined crops and killed millions of heads of livestock.

Oxfam assure us that decisive action now will prevent an even greater crisis later. Those who already have severe acute malnutrition are being fed life-saving therapeutic foods, including nutrient and calorie dense peanut based pastes.

On Monday on Radio 4’s PM, a reporter was present as parents arrived at a camp with her only child. Two others had died on the journey. Their son was in a bad state with his eyes rolled back into his head and only a short time to live. Doctors put him on a drip immediately. He survived, and was smiling at the reporter a few hours later and asking his farther for a glass of water.

This is the difference urgent action makes. This week and next week we will be receiving donations and making sure they get turned into food and medicine as quickly as possible.