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Looming famine in African countries, experts can comment

EXPERTS ADVISORY

The United Nations announced this month that more than 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria are teetering on the edge of famine. University of Michigan experts can comment on the famine risk.

Omolade Adunbi is an associate professor of Afroamerican and African studies. His research and teaching interests include issues related to transnationalism, globalization, resource distribution, human and environmental rights, the postcolonial state, and contemporary African society, culture and politics. His latest book, "Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria," addresses issues related to oil wealth, multinational corporations, transnational institutions, NGOs and violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

"Famine in northern Nigeria is a result of political and environmental strife," he said. "While this is not the biggest, the activities of the insurgency movement in the northeast of Nigeria have contributed tremendously towards reducing farming, which many in the region depend on. Secondly, climate change contributes to the drying up of Lake Chad, which provides economic opportunities to a lot of people in the region."

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Bilal Butt is an assistant professor of natural resources and environment and a faculty affiliate of the African Studies Center. His research interests lie at the intersection of the natural and social sciences to answer questions of how people and wildlife are coping with and adapting to changing climates, politics, livelihoods and ecologies in arid and semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

"As pastoralists struggle to cope with the ongoing drought in East Africa, questions remain about the lack of adequate infrastructure, resources and policies to alleviate the effects of drought," he said. "Drought is not a new phenomenon in the region. But, for many pastoralists, insecure land tenure has meant that the flexible mobility that pastoralists rely on to counter the effects of drought has been constrained, exacerbating the effects of drought."

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Andrew Jones is an assistant professor of nutritional sciences and global public health faculty associate at the School of Public Health. He is interested in understanding the influence of agriculture and food systems on the nutritional status of women and children in low- and middle-income countries. He has worked as a consultant for several institutions, including the World Bank, UNICEF and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

"Severe deficits in calories and micronutrients early in life for children can lead to long-term health problems, even if experienced only for a few months," he said. "It is especially critical that children in the first 1,000 days—before their second birthday—receive adequate nutrition. The looming famine will have long-term health and economic consequences for the region if not prevented."

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Anne Pitcher is a professor of Afroamerican and African studies. Her research focuses on the interaction of political and economic reform in sub-Saharan Africa and the comparative politics of developing countries in Africa. She analyzes how differences in party politics and the quality of democracy affected the process and outcome of privatization in transitional countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Angola. She can discuss the decision to cut funding to agencies like USAID.

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