11m children at risk of starvation, disease and water shortages, Unicef warns – Telegraph.co.uk

Unicef called on governments to step up their aid plans before the situation deteriorates or face “stark pictures in the media” of starving children.

The warning comes ahead of a meeting of world leaders in Paris to discuss targets for slowing climate change and weather-related events, and as European leaders meet in Malta to discuss the refugee crisis in Europe.

European leaders are expected to offer countries from which migrants originate billions in aid in a bid to tackle the economic and security issues that prompt people to leave.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, drew the link between climate change and migration in an address at Old Dominion University in Virginia on Tuesday.

“People who can no longer make a decent living the way their families have for generations – by farming, fishing, herding – will have no choice but to seek other opportunities, mostly in other places,” he said.

This year’s El Niño phenomenon is tipped to be the strongest ever– with one scientist dubbing it the “Godzilla El Niño”. Scientists say its instances and intensity have increased in recent decades and point to climate change as a cause, though others say that is unproven.

Unicef blamed it for the worst food crisis in Malawi for nine years, affecting up to 15 per cent of the population, potentially devastating floods in Somalia and Kenya, bringing with them a heightened risk of disease, and a drought in southern Africa which could shut down Zimbabwe’s crucial Lake Kariba hydroelectric plant and has seen national prayer sessions in South Africa over crop failure and cattle deaths.

It has also been blamed for the worst famine to hit Ethiopia since the crisis that sparked Bob Geldolf’s 1984 Band Aid campaign, though the Ethiopian authorities insist that this time, they are better equipped to manage it.

James Elder, a Unicef spokesman, said after the conflicts in South Sudan and Eritrea sending refugees north, the consequences of extreme weather were also “intertwined” with migration.

“We appreciate governments are being pulled in many directions but in crises like these, investment now could stave off a bigger crisis,” he said.

Leonard Doyle, from the International Organisation for Migration, said helping countries to adapt to climate change and weather phenomenon should be among financial aid considered by European leaders in Malta to stem the migrant flow.

“There’s no question that it is part of the ingredients that lead to migration,” he said. “Money that goes towards stemming migration needs to be smart money.”