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Sudan, Sahel Under UN 'Hunger Alert'

FILE: Maryam Sy comforts her 2-year-old son Aliou Seyni Diallo, the youngest of nine, after a neighbor gave him dry couscous to stop him from crying with hunger, in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northeastern Senegal. Taken May 1, 2012.

ROME - The Sahel and Sudan - along with Haiti and several other nations - now rank among the U.N.'s highest alert areas for food insecurity, requiring "urgent" action from the international community, food agencies warned Monday.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Program (WFP) said the Sahel, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Haiti now join Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen remain at the highest alert level.

All hotspots at the highest level have "communities facing or projected to face starvation, or at risk of sliding towards catastrophic conditions," it said, adding that they required "the most urgent attention."

The report spotlights the risk of a spillover of the Sudan crisis, and says a likely El Nino climatic phenomenon is raising fears of climate extremes in vulnerable countries around the globe.

The "expected shift in climate patterns will have significant implications for several hotspots," the report warned.

Those include potentially "consecutive extreme climatic events hitting areas of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa," it said, along with "below-average rains in the Dry Corridor of Central America."