Justin Lynch

NAIROBI, Kenya: The world’s largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years has been declared in three African countries on the brink of famine, just as President Donald Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world’s top emergency donor.

If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the U.S. does not contribute to Africa’s current crisis, experts warn that the continent’s growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups.

The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in three potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries risk death within months.

Famine already has been declared in two South Sudan counties with 1 million people on the brink of dying, U.N. officials have said. Somalia has declared a state of emergency over drought, and 2.9 million face a food crisis that could become a famine, according to the U.N. And in northeastern Nigeria, severe malnutrition is widespread in areas affected by violence from Boko Haram extremists.

At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a hunger “catastrophe” in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in late February.

But to U.N. data show only 10 percent of the funds have been received.

Trump’s proposed budget would “absolutely” cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people in the world, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said last week. The budget would “spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home.”

The U.S. traditionally has been the largest donor to the U.N. and gives more foreign aid to Africa than any other continent. In 2016 it gave over $2 billion to the U.N.’s World Food Program, or almost a quarter of its total budget. That is expected to be reduced under Trump’s proposed budget, according to former and current U.S. government officials.

In an interview last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected the proposed cuts to foreign aid.

“America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department,” he said. “Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate because many times diplomacy is a lot more effective — and certainly cheaper — than military engagement.”